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Some Green Bay drawbridges may go unmanned

Posted at 10:36 PM, Feb 03, 2016
and last updated 2016-02-03 23:36:28-05

The drawbridges in the Port of Green Bay are one step closer to becoming operated by remote control. Technology could ultimately replace a couple of bridge tenders and in turn save the county as much as 400,000 dollars a year in operational costs. NBC26 was there for the approval of the funding this evening and shares why the Planning Commission made the decision they did.

Tonight the Brown County Planning Commission approved of the funding of nearly 850,000 dollars from the Federal Government. While 2/3rds of that money would be used to repair bridges like the Nitschke and the Tilleman bridge here in Green Bay, the other third of it would be used to install equipment for remote operations to exist.

Thousands of cars go over one of three draw bridges in Green Bay every single day.

"I primarily take it home and to work going to visit family," says Nou Lee of Green Bay.

For some the idea of two of these three stations, eventually being manned by a remote operation is unsettling though.

I would think it's better if you continue to have people stationed at each bridge, closer eyes you know for monitoring," adds Lee.

Wednesday evening the funding for that construction was approved though. County leaders stating they could test the success of such an undertaking after completing the project and getting the Coast Guards nod of approval. That approval though, hasn't’t been received yet.

"The Port’s position is until the Coast Guard deems it safe and reliable, it's up to the Coast Guard. And we support whatever the Coast Guard determines," says Dean Haen the Port Director of the Port of Green Bay.

To date the Coast Guard says that an unmanned drawbridge doesn't exist in a commercial port in the United States and that they are open to the idea of installing the

Equipment. Though they admit much testing would have to be done before it can go into operation.

The Coast Guard would ultimately have to approve of the removal of two of those draw bridge operators and that won't be done until much more testing is complete and they know it's safe.

According to the Director of the Port of Green Bay it could be years until the drawbridges are operating by remote access and that's if the Coast Guard even gives them the green light.