Anytime I see a police car blocking an entrance to our Coronado Bridge, my heart sinks because I realize I’m in for another 20/20 go-round through Imperial Beach – 20 more miles with 20 signal (red) lights, before my faithful steed, Toyota, comes to rest in his barn.
The closing of the San Diego-Coronado Bridge is always a painful disruption of the status quo. It alters the schedules of thousands of residents and Navy personnel. In effect, it forces one to tour Imperial Beach in order to get to where you want to go. It was my misfortune to take the tour two days in a row.
It is understandable to close the bridge when there is an auto accident or an effort to deter a ‘jumper.’ Here we are talking about saving lives which should be everyone’s priority.
Not so clear is when the bridge is closed because of a ‘credible threat’ as happened on May 31 and June 1 due to demonstrators. The ultimate authority to close the bridge rests with the California Department of Transportation (Caltrans) and the California Highway Police (CHP). My quarrel with Caltrans and the CHP is that they close the bridge precipitously when a threat appears, with little regard to the critical lifeline the bridge poses for San Diego and Coronado residents.
The keeping of bridges open was impressed on me in Vietnam when Marines were tasked to keep Highway One open for the swift passage of men and material to “hot spots” in the area. The Marines took their mission so seriously, some even lived on top of their bridge, despite frogmen doing their best to blow them up. I mention this not as a solution to our situation but as an inspiration for greater effort to keep our Coronado bridge open.
There are several assets available to Cal Trans and the CHP when they feel overwhelmed. The two military bases in Coronado boast fine police and fire departments as do our local police and fire. According to Coronado Police Chief Kaye, the Border Patrol could also be available in an emergency to help keep the San Diego-Coronado Bridge open. But the State seems to lack the will to develop and coordinate credible assets when credible threats appears.
Macaulay’s Horatio (“Horatio at the Bridge”) must be the patron saint of Caltrans and CHP. Brave Horatio volunteered to stop an enemy horde intent on sacking Rome, from crossing a narrow bridge. As he took his position at the entrance of the bridge, Horatio famously remarked, “We all die, some soon, some late.” Horatio fought so long and heroically, he gave his fellow Romans time to destroy the bridge behind him.
Due to the exigencies of the time, I’m sure I haven’t made my last 20/20 go- round through Imperial Beach. Nevertheless, I hope Caltrans and the CHP heed another not so famous utterance of Horatio, “Be slow to close the bridge, and quick to reopen it.”