The 100-ton barge that became wedged under a bridge on the Vine Street Expressway during Tropical Storm Isaias was removed Thursday by a tugboat, according to the Army Corps of Engineers.
Rising waters in the storm-swollen Schuylkill dislodged the C.B. Lehigh along with two hopper barges, which contractor Atlantic Subsea Inc. of Bridgeton, N.J., was using to dredge years of silty buildup from the river in front of Boathouse Row and along the regatta racecourse farther upstream.
Inspectors from the state Department of Transportation on Wednesday assessed the damage to the bridge the barges were wedged under, and found no serious issues with its structure, according to spokesperson Brad Rudolph.
The highway, which had been closed to traffic since Tuesday afternoon, opened its eastbound lanes about midday Thursday, with westbound lanes reopening about an hour later. The operation to remove the barge took about an hour, much faster than initially expected, according to Steve Rochette, a spokesperson for the Army Corps office in Philadelphia.
Service on SEPTA’s Regional Rail lines, which had also been impacted earlier in the week by the collision with the bridge, had resumed Thursday morning.
Rochette said the tugboat arrived shortly before 11 a.m., and towed the C.B. Lehigh to its original mooring near the Spring Garden Street Bridge. Crews added additional “spuds,” long metal rods driven into the riverbed, to secure it.
The exact cause of the C.B. Lehigh’s unmooring remains under investigation, but Rochette said that “undoubtedly the force of the river played a role,” as did debris that washed into the waterway during the flooding on Tuesday.
During Isaias, torrential rain swelled the Schuylkill’s volume to more than 60 times what it had been less than two days earlier, speeding the current to about 4.5 mph, according to the U.S. Geological Survey.
The dredging being completed by the barge has taken place above the Fairmount Dam, including in front of Boathouse Row. But the sediment has to be pumped through a pipe run over the dam, then downstream to waiting barges for eventual disposal at Fort Mifflin.