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Monday, November 09, 2009

Radio Island, N.C., trestle reopens after mishap with ship

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Freight cars from Radio Island rolled over the Newport River to Morehead City Port on Nov. 5 for the first time since a ship knocked out the railway trestle on June 5, according to the Sun Journal.

North Carolina Department of Transportation inspectors certified the trestle on Nov. 4 after repairs totaling about $600,000 were done to make it usable and safe again, said Brad McMannen, assistant resident engineer.

Elbert Pittman, DOT construction technician, inspected the trestle that was hit by the 558-foot motor vessel Aurora.

McMannen said repairs included setting the T-beams and pouring concrete to reinforce them, and resetting the trestle rail.

"There wasn't significant damage to existing piles, but if that trestle wasn't there the high-rise may have come down," he said.

The high-rise bridge over the river carries U.S. 70 traffic on one of only two bridges to Carteret County's eastern side from Beaufort to the Cedar Island Ferry.

Repairs to the trestle, owned by the port and operated by Morehead and South Fork Railroad, will be paid for by LOC Americas, McMannen said. LOC is the insurance company covering the 16,454-gross-ton ship owned by PCS Barbados Shipping that hit the trestle. It was empty and getting ready to take on phosphate from the port's main user, PCS Phosphate, when it hit.

John Hughes, DOT division bridge maintenance engineer, said following the incident that "the ship that hit it knocked some of the supporting girders into the water" and said it would take between three and six months to make the repairs.

Radio Island Causeway Yard manager John Odem said there were about 42 freight cars stranded by the accident that mainly affected storage. The tank cars used for ethanol transport are stored empty on Radio Island. No jet fuel has been stored or transported from Radio Island for 10 years.

Witnesses and a U.S. Coast Guard spokesman said that the ship was being tugged across the port channel on the Newport River and got loose in the wind and strong currents. It dropped anchor and attempted to start its engines to stop motion toward the trestle and the high-rise bridge in Morehead City, but it was unable to stop.

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