The spud of the barge chipped a cement beam underneath the bridge, Florida Department of Transportation officials said.
“There was a piece of equipment on a barge that made contact with the DuPont Bridge just last night,” FDOT Public Information Officer Ian Satter said. “We deployed our engineers and our inspection crews to fully inspect the bridge, as we do anytime we have a bridge strike.”
After hours of examining the bridge, the FDOT reopened it around 2 a.m. Thursday morning.
“It is structurally sound, traffic will resume,” Satter said. “And the repairs to fix the chipped concrete on the beams is currently being designed and discussed and we’ll be back there at a later date to make those repairs. But the damage that was done to the bridge was minor.”
The temporary closure of the bridge resulted in Bay District Schools closing Tyndall Academy on Thursday. The school is scheduled to reopen Friday.
Tyndall Air Force Base only allowed essential personnel until 9 a.m. on Thursday. After 9 a.m. the base returned to normal operations.
“Obviously an inconvenience for anyone that was on the other side of the bridge needed to get over,” TAFB Civil Engineer Brandy Smart said.
However, if the closure last longer, Smart said Tyndall servicemen would be more severely affected.
“Nearly everyone lives off base so everyone is commuting to the installation on a daily basis,” Smart said.
If the bridge remained closed, many servicemen would have to travel to Wewahitchka and Mexico Beach to reach Tyndall, Smart said.
While the bridge is open, there are repairs scheduled for next week, Smart said. She said that the FDOT will likely close one lane at a time. Repairs must be made to each side of the bridge.
“We’re going to continue that coordination and that partnership with FDOT to minimize the impact of the mission next week when we know they’re planning to do their repairs,” Smart said. So ideally it’s just one lane of traffic closed at a time.”
The Coast Guard is still investigating how the barge miscalculated the height of its spud. They expect the investigation to take several weeks.
“Sometimes that information can take a little bit to get because you have to work with other people, you have to work with other agencies to get that stuff,” Coast Guard Investigator Sean Hill said. “And then once you get it you can make a better determination.”