Old U.S. 80 bridge survives fourth strike

Published 10:20 am Wednesday, January 20, 2016

The Mississippi River is open, and the old U.S. 80 bridge reopened to rail traffic after a southbound six-barge tow struck the bridge Wednesday.

Warren County Emergency Management Director John Elfer said the motor vessel Wally Roller operated by American Commercial Barge Lines struck the bridge about 10 a.m. Wednesday, causing all six barges to separate on impact. Three of the barges contained grain, two had been carrying molasses, and a flagged barge had carried styrene, a hazardous material. None of the barges sank and there was no release of hazardous materials.

All six barges were recovered south of the bridge by Ergon Marine service boats.

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U.S. Coast Guard spokesman Lt. Brian Porter said the river was closed briefly but reopened after officials determined there was no danger to river traffic. Elfer said Wednesday afternoon rail traffic was reopened after a survey of the pier by the county and state bridge officials.

Wednesday’s strike was the fourth time in a 10-day period a tow has hit the bridge. Last week, three separate tows hit the bridge in three consecutive days.

Two coal-carrying barges sank Tuesday morning after a southbound tow pushed by the motor vessel Ron W. Callegan, operated by American Commercial Barge Lines, struck the bridge at 8:41 a.m. on the Louisiana side of the river.

Wednesday, a barge carrying grain sank in the Mississippi when a 25-barge tow pushed by the motor vessel Inez Andrea and owned by American River Transportation Co. of Chicago hit Pier 3 on the Mississippi Side.

The sunken barge was one of two that broke loose from the tow. The other barge was corralled.

In both accidents, U.S. Army Corps of Engineers officials determined the barges were in deep enough water and would not affect river traffic.

Early Thursday morning, the motor vessel Robert D. Byrd owned by American Commercial Barge Lines River Operations sideswiped the bridge, leaving small scratches on pier 3. No barges broke loose.

The incidents forced the Coast Guard to restrict southbound barge traffic to daylight travel only with tows restricted to 25 barges and 300 horsepower per barge.




About John Surratt

John Surratt is a graduate of Louisiana State University with a degree in general studies. He has worked as an editor, reporter and photographer for newspapers in Louisiana, Mississippi and Alabama. He has been a member of The Vicksburg Post staff since 2011 and covers city government. He and his wife attend St. Paul Catholic Church and he is a member of the Port City Kiwanis Club.

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