Barge slams into Texas bridge inflicting partial collapse and oil spill

May 16, 2024 | blog

A barge slammed right into a bridge pillar in Galveston, Texas, on Wednesday, spilling oil into waters close to busy delivery channels and shutting the one street to a small neighboring island. No accidents have been reported.

The affect despatched items of the bridge, which connects Galveston to Pelican Island, tumbling on high of the barge and shut down a stretch of waterway so crews may clear up the spill. The accident knocked one man off the vessel and into the water, however he was shortly recovered and was not injured, mentioned Galveston County Sheriff’s Office Maj. Ray Nolen.

Ports alongside the Texas coast are hubs of worldwide commerce, however specialists mentioned the collision was unlikely to lead to critical financial disruptions because it occurred in a lesser-used waterway. The island is on the other aspect of Galveston Island’s seashores that draw tens of millions of vacationers annually.

The accident occurred shortly earlier than 10 a.m. after a tugboat operator pushing two barges misplaced management of them, mentioned David Flores, a bridge superintendent with the Galveston County Navigation District.

“The current was very bad, and the tide was high,” Flores mentioned. “He lost it.”

Pelican Island is only some miles vast and is dwelling to Texas A&M University at Galveston, a big shipyard and industrial services. Fewer than 200 folks have been on the campus when the collision occurred, and all have been finally allowed to drive on the bridge to depart. The marine and maritime analysis institute mentioned it plans to stay closed till not less than Friday. Students who reside on campus have been allowed to stay there, however college officers warned those that reside on campus and depart “should be prepared to remain off campus for an unknown period of time.”

The accident got here weeks after a cargo ship crashed right into a assist column of the Francis Key Bridge in Baltimore on March 26, killing six development employees.

The tugboat in Texas was pushing bunker barges, that are gasoline barges for ships, Flores mentioned. The barge, which is owned by Martin Petroleum, has a 30,000-gallon capability, however it’s not clear how a lot leaked into the bay, mentioned Galveston County spokesperson Spencer Lewis. He mentioned about 6.5 miles (10.5 kilometers) of the waterway have been shut down due to the spill.

The affected space is miles away from the Gulf Intracoastal Waterway, which sees frequent barge site visitors, and the Houston Ship Channel, a big delivery channel for ocean-going vessels. Aside from the environmental affect of the spill, the area is unlikely to see giant financial disruption on account of the accident, mentioned Marcia Burns, a maritime transportation professional on the University of Houston

“Because Pelican Island is a smaller location, which is not in the heart of commercial events, then the impact is not as devastating,” Burns mentioned. “It’s a relatively smaller impact.”

At the bridge, a big piece of damaged concrete and particles from the railroad hung over the aspect and on high of the barge that rammed into the passageway. Flores mentioned the rail line solely serves as safety for the construction and has by no means been used.

Opened in 1960, the Pelican Island Causeway Bridge was rated as “Poor” in response to the Federal Highway Administration’s 2023 National Bridge Inventory launched final June.

The general score of a bridge is predicated on whether or not the situation of any of its particular person elements — the deck, superstructure, substructure or culvert, if current — is rated poor or under.

In the case of the Pelican Island Causeway Bridge, inspectors rated the deck in “Satisfactory Condition,” the substructure in “Fair Condition” and the superstructure — or the part that absorbs the reside site visitors load — in “Poor Condition.”

The Texas Department of Transportation had been scheduled in the summertime of 2025 to start development on a undertaking to interchange the bridge with a brand new one. The undertaking was estimated to price $194 million. In paperwork offered throughout a digital public assembly final 12 months, the division mentioned the bridge has “reached the end of its design lifespan, and needs to be replaced.” The company mentioned it has spent over $12 million performing upkeep and repairs on the bridge previously decade.

The bridge has one principal metal span that measures 164 toes (50 meters), and federal knowledge exhibits it was final inspected in December 2021. It’s unclear from the information if a state inspection befell after the Federal Highway Administration compiled the information.

The bridge had a median each day site visitors determine of about 9,100 vehicles and vans, in response to a 2011 estimate.

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