Barge Collision Causes Section of Bridge to Collapse

( – Visitors to Pelican Island can only get there by crossing the bridge on foot after a barge smashed into one of its pillars on May 15, causing part of it to collapse.

Images from the scene showed large pieces of concrete and railroad tracks from the bridge lying on the front portion of the barge. Fortunately, no one was injured, although two crew members fell overboard during the mid-morning collision. Both were quickly rescued and returned to the barge. The bridge connects Pelican Island to Galveston and is the only way to get there except by boat. The bridge was temporarily shut down but has since reopened to vehicles exiting the island, but only one car can cross at a time.

The barge was carrying 30,000 gallons of vacuum gas oil, some of which spilled in the waterway. A six-and-a-half-mile area in Galveston Bay was shut down while the U.S. Coast Guard assessed the spill and began cleanup efforts. The City of Galveston said that the Texas Department of Transportation was evaluating the damage to the structure of the bridge, which will remain closed until it can be safely crossed. The channel will also remain closed to other vessels. A bridge superintendent from the Galveston County Navigation District said that two barges were being pushed by a tugboat, but it was unable to maintain control of the large vessels. He also emphasized that the “current was very bad, and the tide was high.”

Texas A&M University at Galveston, which is located on the island, temporarily lost power after the collision. Approximately 40 students and staffers were taken to a hotel after the collision, and the campus was shut down for the rest of the week. Texas coast ports are major international trade hubs, but experts do not foresee significant economic disruptions, as the waterway where the accident occurred is not highly trafficked. Had the accident occurred a few miles away in the Gulf Intracoastal Waterway, experts would be singing a different tune.

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