Barge strike closes swing span on Intracoastal Waterway in Virginia

The Centerville Turnpike Bridge
The Centerville Turnpike Bridge
The Centerville Turnpike Bridge was closed
to vehicular traffic Nov. 14 after being struck by a barge guided by Island Lookout, shown in 2016 near Hampton Roads.

A swing bridge over the Intracoastal Waterway in Chesapeake, Va., sustained serious damage after a single-barge tow struck it.

The 2,000-hp Island Lookout was pushing a barge loaded with scrap metal when the barge hit the north side of the Centerville Turnpike Bridge at 0446 on Nov. 14. The bridge has been closed to vehicular traffic since the impact.

“The front starboard side of the north side (of the bridge) was hit while open,” U.S. Coast Guard Lt. Cmdr. Dan Schrader said in an email. “The tug was undamaged, but the barge did incur damages. A final amount of damage has yet to be determined.”

The Coast Guard is investigating the incident and has not yet determined the cause. The National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB) is conducting its own investigation.

The two-lane Centerville Turnpike Bridge dates back to 1955 and is crossed by about 16,000 vehicles a day when operational. The span swings open from the south side, with the tender house located on the north side.

When open to maritime traffic, the bridge leaves an 80-foot-wide navigation channel for vessels, according to Jason Brown, spokesman for the city of Chesapeake. He said the tender house was manned at the time of the incident.

The Coast Guard has not disclosed the nature of any communications between the towboat pilot and bridge tender before the collision, citing the ongoing investigation. Brown also refused to share specifics about the incident, citing the Coast Guard and NTSB investigations. Weather conditions at the time were not available.

Almost a month after the incident, authorities still had not determined how much damage the bridge sustained.

“Our inspection process is ongoing, and at this time we don’t yet have additional information regarding the extent of the damage to the bridge, or (the) related repair timeline,” Brown said in December. “The bridge remains closed to vehicle traffic and the canal is open to maritime traffic.”

The 65-foot, twin-screw Island Lookout is operated by Stevens Towing of Yonges Island, S.C. No injuries were reported among the crew and the Coast Guard did not report any pollution.

“Stevens Towing is fully cooperating with the investigation of the USCG and the NTSB,” said Johnson Stevens, the company’s president, CEO and board chairman. “At this point we cannot speak about the incident, but we feel there will be more information to come.”

By Professional Mariner Staff