A tow struck one of the piers of the new Winona bridge on Tuesday. State officials said the damage is only superficial and the bridge is safe and structurally sound.
Mn/DOT: Bridge is OK
by CHRIS ROGERS
Winona has only had it for two years, but the new interstate bridge got one of its first big scratches yesterday when a tow struck one of its piers. A group of barges hit the bridge pier in the main channel of the Mississippi River shortly after noon on Tuesday, according to the Winona County Sheriff’s Office (WCSO). Minnesota Department of Transportation (Mn/DOT) officials said that the bridge was only superficially damaged and that it remains safe and open to traffic.
Mn/DOT bridge inspectors viewed the damage from a boat early on Tuesday afternoon. “The good news is it performed as it’s designed,” Mn/DOT District Six Communications Director Mike Dougherty said. The new bridge piers are engineered to withstand vessel impacts and the slow, steady scouring of the Mississippi River. “There will be some repairs needed to some of the concrete,” Dougherty said. “There was some that fell off, and some rebar is exposed.” However, he added, “There weren’t any structural cracks or anything coming up from the spots where it was hit.”
Dougherty said that the bridge is safe and that a plan for repairs is currently being developed.
In the moments immediately after the tow’s collision, WCSO Chief Deputy Jeff Mueller said that Mn/DOT officials advised the sheriff’s office that closing the bridge was not necessary. Prior to the inspection, speaking based on initial reports, Dougherty said, “Just from their impressions, I don’t believe it’s a threat at this moment, but two of our bridge inspectors are on their way and plan to get into a boat and get as close as they can.” That subsequent inspection confirmed that the bridge was not seriously damaged, according to Mn/DOT.
“It’s one of those things that you know can occur during a bridge’s lifespan,” Dougherty stated.
Authorities said they did not have any information about what caused the collision. A spokesman for the U.S. Coast Guard said the cause is under investigation.