A Dozen Loose Barges Close Down Several City Bridges

Officials say barges hit the Liberty and Panhandle Bridges

Shelby Cassesse
January 21, 2019 - 8:11 am

PITTSBURGH (Newsradio 1020 KDKA) - A dozen barges broke loose on the Monongahela River Monday morning, closing down five city bridges.

As of 9:00 a.m., crews have reopened the Smithfield Street, West End, Fort Pitt , Liberty Brige and McKees Rocks Bridges. The  Panhandle Bridge remains closed as inspections continue.

The Port Authority tweeted the Panhandle Bridge took a direct hit from a loose barge, while officials confirmed the Liberty Bridge also took at direct hit.

Lt. Shawn Simeral of the United States Coast Guard tells KDKA Radio all barges have been accounted for. 

"We have confirmed that there were 12 barges that were involved in this incident. Currently, all reports are that all 12 have been corralled. Not all are out of the actual river itself."

He says the cause of the incident is unknown, but currents and weather conditions could have played a role. 

Moon-Sirianni says this type of incident could cause substantial damage. 

"If they would hit the pier slightly and the pier would move, then your bearings at the top of the bridge would be knocked off-course. I don't know if you remember a few years back what happened to Birmingham Bridge when the one bearing was knocked over and the bridge fell eight inches. That could happen on these bridges. 

All of the barges are reportedly carrying coal.