PITTSBURGH (KDKA) — Several bridges were inspected and reopened early this morning, but crews continue work today to clear a navigational channel on the Monongahela River after two barges broke loose on the water overnight.
According to the United States Coast Guard in Pittsburgh, the tow vessel Marge Mcfarlin lost part of its load just after 2 a.m. when it struck the Liberty Bridge.
“She was up-bound with 12 loaded coal barges, and during a collision or other initiating event at the Liberty Street Bridge, lost two of those,” said Cmdr. Richard Timme, of the U.S. Coast Guard, “and subsequently the Bryant facility here on the Monongahela also lost one barge full of sand.”
The massive barges headed down river, two taking on water and the other ending up underwater.
“You can see the results over my back shoulder here; a sand barge and a coal barge here are against the Smithfield Street Bridge,” said Cmdr. Timme. “A third barge, a coal barge, sunk just in front of the Duquesne Incline.”
With the sand barge and coal barge stuck up against the bridge, the Marge Mcfarlin tow vessel headed down river this morning with a large rig with a crane and an empty barge to unload the barge that sank and then lift it out of the river. Once that happens the waterway can be reopened.
The cause of the incident remains under investigation, but it’s believed the mighty Mon proved too much for the tow.
“Mother Nature is powerful and these rivers are powerful, and once the kind of tonnage that’s in a barge gets moving, it’s not easy to stop,” Cmdr. Timme added.
The Liberty Bridge, the Fort Pitt Bridge and the Smithfield Street Bridge were all shut down overnight for safety inspections.
All of the spans have been reopened including the Panhandle Bridge, which carries the T line over the river.
Officials with the Port Authority say that bridge also had to be inspected. During the closure, T riders were transferred to shuttle buses at the South Hills Junction.
No injuries or pollution problems were reported as a result of the incident.