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Video: Barge Tow Hits Freeway Bridge on Arkansas River

File image: barge tow navigation on the Arkansas River at Little Rock, 2018 (USACE)
File image: barge tow navigation on the Arkansas River at Little Rock, 2018 (USACE)

Published Mar 31, 2024 5:49 PM by The Maritime Executive

A barge tow hit a freeway bridge over the Arkansas River on Saturday, prompting a brief closure for safety checks. 

At about 1330 hours, a tow hit a pier on the I-59 bridge south of Sallisaw, Oklahoma. A video captured by a bystander shows that the tow partially broke up on impact, and one barge at the head of the tow drifted away from the pier. 

[Caution: Strong language]

Bystander photos appear to show extensive damage to the bow of one barge, along with scuffing on the bridge pier at the location of the allision.

Highway engineers evaluated the structure and opened it to traffic about three hours after the allision, Oklahoma's Department of Transportations said in a statement. 

Barge allisions are a recurring type of casualty on U.S. inland waterways, where close-quarters maneuvering and strong currents are common. America's highway standards body, AASHTO, has created standards for evaluating the risk of an allision and preventing damage, and bridge structures built since 1991 have had to take these factors into consideration. 

The I-59 bridge is not far from the I-40 bridge at Webbers Ferry, Oklahoma, which collapsed after a barge allision in 2002. That earlier accident killed 14, prompting a rethink of bridge protection around the state.