Barge Hits Bridge, Causes Damage and Oil Spill, May Be Unusable For Foreseeable Future

On Wednesday morning, an accident occurred near Galveston, Texas, causing significant damage to the Pelican Island Causeway and resulting in an oil spill in the surrounding waters.

According to the Galveston County Sheriff’s Office, a barge collided with the bridge, leading to a partial collapse and the release of vacuum oil gas into the bay.

County Judge Mark Henry stated that the U.S. Coast Guard has decided to shut down the Gulf Intracoastal Waterway in response to the incident, as the oil spill is moving in that direction.

This closure is expected to have a substantial impact on maritime commercial traffic along the Texas coast, as the waterway is a crucial route for many vessels.

The accident has also left Pelican Island, located north of Galveston, temporarily isolated, as the damaged bridge is the only connection between the island and the mainland.

Judge Henry reported that the barge, which has a capacity of 30,000 gallons, broke loose from the vessel towing it at around 10 a.m. and struck the railroad side of the bridge, which is no longer in use.

The collision caused two crew members to either jump or be thrown from the ship, but they were quickly rescued.

SkyEye aerial footage revealed an approximately 300-foot oil sheen on the water’s surface in the affected area.

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Crews, including four inspectors from the Texas Department of Transportation, are currently assessing the extent of the damage to the bridge. The city of Galveston is preparing for potential evacuations, which are expected to take place in the afternoon.

Texas A&M University Galveston, situated on Pelican Island, has been providing updates to its students and staff.

The university reported that electricity has been restored to the island through a secondary power route, following an initial outage caused by the accident.

The Pelican Island Causeway, constructed in 1960, spans 3,239 feet with a span length of 164.1 feet.

Prior to the accident, a proposal had been put forth to replace the aging bridge, with construction slated to begin in the summer of 2025.

The project overview emphasized the critical nature of the bridge, stating that “the deterioration of the Seawolf Parkway bridge has progressed to the extent that any additional deterioration could result in sudden bridge closure.

Since this bridge provides sole access to Pelican Island, bridge closure would effectively cut off access for all users, including evacuation and emergency services.”

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Authorities are now concerned that the damage caused by Wednesday’s accident may render the bridge unusable in the long term.