Bridge to be checked for safety following barge collision

Published 8:59 am Saturday, February 10, 2024

The Highway 80 bridge over the Mississippi River will undergo three inspections to ensure it is safe for use after it was struck by a barge Thursday afternoon.

Vicksburg Bridge Commissioner Herman Smith said Friday the bridge did not appear to have sustained substantial damage, but will undergo a thorough process of inspections in the wake of the accident.

“When I got the notification – I got it through the sensors on the bridge – I went and called KCS (railroad). There was a train crossing the bridge when this happened,” Smith said. “It was crossing the bridge when (the barge) landed on there, and it shook them. But, nothing broke down or anything like that. Everything was good there.”

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Smith said KCS is one of three entities that will now perform an inspection of the bridge. The Vicksburg Bridge Commission and its engineering firm Huval and Associates Inc. will also perform inspections in order to ensure safety and allow the railroad to resume service.

Smith did not specify a timeline for the inspections’ completions, but said it is standard procedure and is needed after Thursday’s incident marked the third boat to strike the bridge in 36 hours.

Thursday’s accident occurred when a barge piloted by Christopher Myskowski and owned by Marquette Transportation
of Paducah, Kentucky lost control while headed north- bound on the river.

“He was pushing 36 barges, empties, northbound,” Smith said. “He was six wide, and six long. He was coming through the
main channel span, steering toward the Louisiana bank to try to get to some slack water. As he was doing that, some of the current started hitting him in his right side, shoving him down toward the bridge. The two wires on the right side of the boat both broke. When they broke, that was the end of it and he was just along for the ride.”

The collision broke the barges apart, turning them parallel with the bridge and resulting in the river’s closure for several hours
while harbor tug boats with Ergon Marine & Industrial Supply worked to clear the wreckage.

Smith said the current is thought to have had a hand in all three collisions with the bridge’s structural support beams, known as piers.

“Most of the time, 97, 98 percent of the time, they hit our bridge and miss the I-20 bridge,” Smith said. “It’s because our piers are lined up with them and the current, when it’s coming around our pier, it will liter- ally push the barges.”

Smith said Thursday’s crash did not affect traffic along the I-20 bridge and did not result in any injuries. Officials on the scene Thursday said the barges being empty also meant there was no chance of an environmental problem due to a spill as a result of the accident.

“(The harbor boats) helped gather those barges up and put them in a place where the big boat company can put them back together and leave, and that’s what they did yesterday,” Smith said.