Barge wedged under I-676 overpass on the Schuylkill will stay put until Thursday afternoon


UPDATED: Aug. 6, 10:50 a.m. 

PHILADELPHIA (KYW Newsradio) — Operations to remove an enormous dredging barge lodged against the Vine Street Expressway in Philadelphia won't commence until Thursday afternoon, meaning the bridge and the expressway stay closed.
The Crane Barge Lehigh was moored in the river for a months-long Schuylkill River dredging project. However, when Tropical Storm Isaias passed through the region on Tuesday, the river swelled with rainwater runoff and caused it and two associated hopper barges to dislodge from their moorings. 
They floated freely up the river before hitting the overpass and coming to a stop.

The barge used in the #SchuylkillRiver dredging project has become wedged under 676 & as the water flows at a decent pace, officials are trying to figure out HOW to move it & whether there’s damage to the Vine Street Expressway. @KYWNewsradio

— Kristen Johanson (@KristenJohanson) August 5, 2020

“As a safety precaution, until we could get the bridge inspected, as we are doing right now, we closed 676 in both directions between 76 and Broad Street, and we also closed the ramps to 76 to 676," said PennDOT spokesman Brad Rudolph.

Before the barges came to a stop at the bridge, SEPTA suspended all Regional Rail service, out of an abundance of caution, though Rudolph says it's not doing any immediate harm.

“We have piers there that are 120 feet deep. Things seem to be getting better as the water is receding, but it seems it’s going to take some time." 

He says they’re working with the Army Corp of Engineers and its contractor, Atlantic Subsea, to figure out how to move the barge.

Lt. Col. David Park, commander of the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers Philadelphia District, says they have a game plan to get it out of there.

"There's three tugboats that we're planning to bring up the river to the location of where the barge is stuck at the I-676 bridge. That time frame as far as when they're able to come up the river based on the river velocity, we're expecting that to be early afternoon,” Park said. 

Once the barge is pulled away, PennDOT district engineer Ken McClain says his team will do one last inspection before reopening it.

He says they did find a small, bent stiffener bracket. The bracket is welded to a bridge beam to prevent that beam from buckling.

"The bridge is not in jeopardy of falling down or a catastrophic failure and we will put out a contract to replace that a couple weeks after the barge is removed,” McClain said. 

SEPTA restored service throughout the morning. The bridge and the expressway will stay closed until the removal. 

Meanwhile, Fire Commissioner Adam Thiel said firefighters, police and other agencies took part in rescuing some 200 people from the heavily flooded Eastwick neighborhood in Southwest Philadelphia and from an apartment building in Manayunk on Tuesday, where rising waters were putting residents in jeopardy.

Thiel said damage assessment crews are fanned out across Philadelphia because several neighborhoods were hit by the storm.

He said once those crews compile their reports, the losses could be in the tens of millions of dollars.

#Update: Vine Street expressway will remain closed until @PennDOT inspects bridge where barge, dislodged yesterday afternoon, is now leaning against. Likely roadway won’t open until tomorrow. @KYWNewsradio

— Kristen Johanson (@KristenJohanson) August 5, 2020


KYW Newsradio's Kristen Johanson, Mark Abrams and Tim Jimenez contributed to this report.