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Pelican Island bridge is unstable after barge slammed into pillar, causing oil spill, officials say

GALVESTON, Texas (KTRK) — Pelican Island is cut off for a second day after a barge crashed into the causeway on Wednesday — the only way to drive on and off the island.

The Pelican Island Causeway bridge has reopened at times to let some cars exit the island and head to Galveston, though no one was allowed to enter. Officials say it’s unlikely they’ll be able to get back on the island anytime soon.

Now, crews are working to repair the damage and clean up the oil that spilled.

Officials said a barge broke loose from a tug boat just before 10 a.m. Wednesday and crashed into the Pelican Island Causeway.

The impact broke off part of the bridge and caused vacuum gas oil to spill into the water.

The barge reportedly has a capacity of 30,000 gallons, though so far, it’s unclear how much oil leaked.

Officials told ABC13 that two crew members on the ship were either thrown or jumped off, but they were rescued quickly. Emergency management leaders confirmed with ABC13 that there were less than 200 people on the island when the incident happened.

Pelican Island is just north of Galveston and is home to Texas A&M Galveston, Seawolf Park, and the Galveston Naval Museum.

Galveston County Judge Mark Henry said they’ve been trying to get the bridge replaced for about 10 years.

“My concern is that they are going to deem the bridge unusable, which would not be a surprise. It was in bad shape before this accident, and that’s going to cause some significant disruptions to Pelican Island,” Henry said. “People are going to have no real way to get there and back, and with Texas A&M Galveston being there, that’s going to dramatically impact A&M Galveston’s ability to deliver education.”

The campus is closed through Sunday.

About 6.5 miles of the Gulf Intracoastal Waterway between marker 350.5 and 357 is closed down because of the oil spill.

As for the bridge itself, there were long lines to get off the island on Wednesday. At one point, crews were only letting one car cross at a time.

There are concerns that once the barge is moved from under the bridge, it will become even more unstable.

The Pelican Island Causeway was constructed in 1960 and was actually set to be replaced in 2025.

The bridge is more than 3,200 feet long and about 164 feet wide.

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This story comes from our news partner ABC13 Houston.