- The Washington Times - Tuesday, March 14, 2006

An unmanned barge drifted out of control today and lodged against a bridge on the Severn River near Annapolis, forcing the temporary closure of two bridges and snarling traffic along the busy U.S. 50 corridor.

The barge lodged between two piers on the bridge that carries U.S. 50 over the Severn River shortly after 10:30 a.m., then partially broke loose as workers struggled to control it in the face of a stiff wind blowing down the river.

Greg Shipley, a state police spokesman, said police were alerted to the problem about 10:25 a.m. and were able to clear the six-lane bridge of traffic before it was hit by the barge. It was reopened about two hours later.

“As soon as they got the barge out of the way, our inspectors were on the scene,” Chuck Gischlar, spokesman for the State Highway Administration, said. “They ascertained immediately that it was just cosmetic damage, and the bridge was immediately reopened.”

Soon after closing the first bridge, highway and police officials closed a second bridge a short distance down the river, next to the Naval Academy. But that four-lane bridge was later reopened, and police and police diverted traffic through Annapolis until the barge was cleared and the U.S. 50 bridge was determined to be safe.

Coast Guard spokesman Lt. Andrew Ely said the barge belongs to Langenfelder Marine Inc. of Stevensville and was loaded with rocks. Representatives from the company were investigating the incident, and it was not immediately clear how the barge broke loose.

Barbara Verbrycke, who lives near the bridge, had seen the barge Sunday and Monday at its location in the river. She said the barge appeared to be in a different position Monday than it had been the day before.

“I thought yesterday that it had moved. My husband said, ‘No, it was tied to a buoy,’ but evidently it must have broken loose at some point,” Verbrycke said.

U.S. 50 connects Washington, D.C., with Maryland’s Eastern Shore over the Chesapeake Bay Bridge.

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