Mississippi River reopens after barge accident

Wednesday, July 23, 2014 | 12:39 p.m. CDT

LOUISIANA, Mo. — A railroad bridge is undamaged and Mississippi River traffic is moving again at Louisiana, Missouri, after barges broke free from their tow and became stuck under the bridge.

Fifteen barges became dislodged about 4:30 a.m. Tuesday from a tow operated by Marquette Transportation Company of Paducah, Ky. Three of the barges passed under the Louisiana Railroad Drawbridge, but 12 became stuck.

U.S. Coast Guard spokesman Carlos Vega said Wednesday that the barges were separated two at a time throughout the day. Rail traffic was allowed to resume across the bridge at 7 p.m. Tuesday, and about an hour later, river traffic resumed.

No one was hurt. Vega said the cause of the accident remains under investigation.

Lt. Tim Marriott of the Coast Guard office in St. Louis said the barges, loaded with grain, became wedged around a "turntable" that allows the drawbridge to spin in the water. Clearing them from the turntable took some time, he said.

Clearing the river was also delayed because it took a while to bring enough towboats to the area to retrieve the wayward barges once they were cleared, Marriott said.

Missouri Department of Transportation inspectors examined the bridge and determined it was undamaged, Vega said. The barges were not damaged.

Neither Marriott nor Vega knew if minor flooding was a factor. The river has been above flood stage for several weeks at Louisiana. On Tuesday, it was nearly a half-foot above flood stage.

Louisiana is about 90 miles north of St. Louis. The railroad bridge opened in 1873.

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