Barges Set Adrift in Hudson River by Snowstorm Raise Safety Concerns

January 6, 2014

Two large construction barges moored near New York’s Tappan Zee Bridge broke away during the recent snowstorm and drifted down the Hudson River, raising more safety questions about boats that have been under scrutiny since a fatal accident in July.

One of the barges traveled 15 miles before it was recovered Friday near the George Washington Bridge. The second traveled a shorter distance. Both were pushed back into place.

This isn’t the first time the barges being used for the multibillion-dollar Tappan Zee Bridge replacement project have broken loose.

In September, a 50-foot barge drifted a mile before police tracked it down.

Tappan Zee Constructors spokeswoman Carla Julian told The Journal News that rough weather was to blame for Friday’s incident. Work on the bridge project had been halted during the storm. A small caretaking crew was still on hand, but visibility on the river was very poor.

Officials plan to put GPS devices on the barges that would sound an alarm if one of them started drifting.

Even anchored, the barges can pose a navigation hazard.

In July, a speedboat carrying members of a wedding party crashed into a barge in the dark, killing a bride-to-be and her fiance’s best man. The boat driver faces charges of vehicular manslaughter, negligent homicide and operating under the influence.

The estates of the two victims have sued several companies involved in the construction of the new bridge, alleging poor lighting on the barge was to blame for the crash.

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