Highway Dept. doesn't believe barge accidents are a trend

LITTLE ROCK (KATV) - Traffic was free-flowing over the Interstate 30 Bridge spanning the Arkansas River just barely a half-hour after a barge reportedly skimmed the bridge around 4:00 PM. It's the second bridge versus barge collision in the better part of a month.

A tugboat carrying eight empty barges clipped a pier protection cell, the unit that protects the actual bridge supports. According to the U.S. Coast Guard Lower Mississippi River Sector, the barges were previously carrying rocks and were emptied before the strike.

The pilot of the tugboat entitled, "Bill Rodgers" called the Coast Guard just moments after the collision had occurred. Coast Guard LTJG. Brian Porter said the self-reporting of barge accidents is required by all pilots.

Arkansas Highway Department dispatched an inspector within minutes of the report of the accident, and not more than a half-hour later the bridge was reopened to traffic.

"We got a bridge inspector down here as soon as we could," said Randy Ort, public information officer, Arkansas Highway Department. "The inspector was taken out there by boat, inspected all the pier protection cells and found very little if any damage. It was difficult to determine if any of the damage was even new."

The minor scratches found by the highway bridge inspector may have been residual damage from the last time the I-30 Bridge was hit back on August 23.

Ort said the highway department is not concerned with two bridge versus barge hits in the matter of just over a month.

"I don't think this is a developing trend of anything like that," said Ort. "I think it's just an unfortunate incident."

Porter said the Coast Guard has collected all of the evidence they need to begin their investigation into how the barge managed to scrape the bridge's pier protector. There is no timeframe on when the investigation will be completed. The Coast Guard's investigation into the August barge hit is still under investigation.