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Tow Strikes Bridge

Parts of the Monongahela and Ohio rivers were closed late last week after a towing vessel allided with a bridge while pushing 12 loaded coal barges, resulting in two of the barges breaking away.

The Coast Guard reported that at approximately 2:30 a.m. on Thursday, watchstanders at Coast Guard Sector Ohio Valley received a report that the towing vessel Marge Mcfarlin, which is owned and operated by Ingram Barge Company, allided with the Liberty Highway Bridge at mile marker 1.1 on the Monongahela River causing two coal barges to break away and snagging a third as they drifted down river.

One of the barges was reported to have sunk in the vicinity of the Fort Pitt Bridge, and the second barge eventually struck a barge fleeting area, causing another moored barge to break loose. Both barges are resting at mile marker 0.8, at the foot of Smithfield Street Bridge.  A total of four Pittsburgh bridges were closed as a result of the barges breaking away.

The accident forced the closure of a portion of the Monongahela River, from mile marker 0.0 to 1.2, and a portion of the Ohio River, from mile marker 0.0 to 0.2 to vessel traffic.  The Coast Guard was eventually able to reopen the closed portions on Saturday after salvage operations for the two breakaway barges was completed.

No one was injured in the incident and the cause of the collision is under investigation.

The Pennsylvania, Ohio, West Virginia, Mississippi and Monogahela Rivers serve as steady transportation sources for commerce and serve as arteries for barge traffic carrying coal, limestone, petroleum products and other commodities.  A steady increase in river traffic over the last few years has brought a corresponding increase in the number of inland waterway injuries and accidents.