Bridge reopens to train traffic

Published 12:00 am Tuesday, May 6, 2003

Engineers survey the damage to the U.S. 80 bridge Monday after barges being towed by the motor vessel John Paul Eckstein struck a pier of the bridge.(Melanie Duncan Thortis The Vicksburg Post)

[5/6/03]The U.S. 80 bridge over the Mississippi River was reopened to train traffic Monday after an engineer from Kansas City Southern Railway deemed it safe.

The bridge had been closed since shortly after 4 a.m. when a barge hit pier 4, the pier under the American flag that flies over the bridge.

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Herman Smith, superintendent of the county-owned bridge used only by trains, said an employee of an environmental testing company was conducting an air-quality test when the tow hit.

“He said it almost shook him out of his truck,” Smith said.

The barge was in a 35-barge tow being pushed by the motor vessel John Paul Eckstein for a transportation company from Paducah, Ky. In addition to the barge that hit the old bridge, another in Eckstein’s tow also hit the I-20 bridge, but traffic on that bridge was not stopped.

Smith said an engineer from KCS inspected the bridge Monday morning and gave Warren County a letter releasing the county from liability. That allowed trains, that Smith described as being backed up from Monroe, La., to Meridian, to begin moving.

“One crossed right at 10:30 and another went over about 5 minutes later,” Smith said.

He also said he had checked the plumb bob in Pier No. 4 and found it where it should be and checked the support bearings and track bolts and found no damage.

Later Monday, a team from HNTB of Baton Rouge, the Vicksburg Bridge Commission consulting engineers for the bridge, arrived and checked the bridge from water level and on the bridge.

Smith said the only damage found was some concrete scraped off the pier at water level and the HNTB team gave the bridge a clean bill of health.

The 73-year-old bridge is hit by a tow an average of once per year. No injuries were reported Monday.