Part of the Illinois River has been closed by the Coast Guard after a bridge allision with the Florence Highway Bridge near Florence, Illinois this weekend. The Illinois River has been closed to all commercial and recreational traffic from mile marker 55.5 to mile marker 56.5 due to the allision.
The 120-foot towing vessel Billy Waxler was pushing 12 barges loaded with grain when it allided with the bridge at mile marker 56 on the Illinois River on Saturday. One barge bring pushed struck the pier, breaking eight others loose and sending them down the river where they were recovered. Eleven of the barges sustained no damage. Four of the barges are wedged against the bridge and awaiting salvage operations. There has been a vessel queue of nine vessels waiting to transit up-bound and nine vessels waiting to transit down-bound.
At this time, the cause of the collision and the damage done to the bridge is unknown.
Some workers familiar with the bridge at issue claim that problems like this occur routinely in Spring. A similar incident happened on May 4, 2009, when a barge struck the protection cell around the bridge pier and pushed it over. Without the protection cell this year, the barge hit the right ascending pier of the bridge and came to rest on the protection cell. If the cell was not there for the vessel to rest upon, it would sink.
When the water is high during the spring flood season, the bend in the river near the bridge causes an outdraft. Barges usually brush up against the bridge before passing through.
A salvage company is evaluating the bridge before the river can reopen.
Maritime Terms: A collision, on the other hand, means that both objects are in motion when they strike each other. Ship collisions happen too often, leading to marine accidents including the loss of human life, environmental problems, financial problems for shipping companies and seaside communities, and damage to infrastructure items such as bridges like the one in this situation.