Live Bridge Collapse Updates: Captain of the Port of Baltimore Plans to Open a ‘Temporary Alternate Path’ Near the Key Bridge


On March 26, a cargo ship carrying 56 containers of hazardous goods slammed the Francis Scott Key Bridge, causing it to collapse.

Eight construction workers were patching potholes on the bridge when the vessel collided, dumping them into the Patapsco River. Two of the workers were rescued, two bodies were recovered, and four are still missing and assumed dead.

Crews suspended their search and recovery efforts to focus on salvage and cleanup.

Here’s what we know for now:

Heavy Equipment Arrives at the Key Bridge Collapse Site

On Friday, heavy equipment arrived at the collapsed bridge site to begin the huge cleanup effort and clear the waterway so that the Port of Baltimore could reopen.

The United States Navy is providing four heavy-lift cranes to help clear 3,000 to 4,000 tons of bridge rubble. The fourth is anticipated to arrive on Monday.

Crews are surveying the Patapsco River, including all of the debris above and below the waterline, due to the perilous position of the steel trusses and concrete chunks, some of which are sitting on the ship’s bow.

“They’re all working diligently to figure out the right plan to be able to break that bridge up into the right-size pieces that we can lift,” said US Coast Guard Rear Admiral Shannon Gilreath.

While there is no timeframe for clearing the debris and reopening the Port of Baltimore, there is a sense of urgency as the economic effect worsens with each day the port remains down.

“I need this done quickly. “I want it done right,” Governor Wes Moore stated.

The governor’s office told WJZ that efforts will continue “round-the-clock” until the Port of Baltimore reopened.

Making a Temporary Path for Vessels

On Saturday, March 30, the Unified Command began removing debris from the Francis Scott Key bridge.

Crews are tearing down the northern section of the bridge into smaller pieces in the hopes of moving enough to create a temporary, restricted route that will allow more vessels to reach the crash scene.

“This will be an important first step toward reopening the port of Baltimore,” stated Capt. David O’Connell, Federal On-Scene Coordinator for Key Bridge Response 2024. “By opening this alternate route, we will support the flow of marine traffic into Baltimore.”

A 200-ton section was removed from the bridge on Sunday.

According to the mayor’s office, this measure is part of a gradual approach to opening the main canal.

The temporary channel will be designated with government-lighted navigation aids and have a controlling depth of 11 feet, a horizontal clearance of 264 feet, and a vertical clearance of 96 feet.

The current 2,000-yard safety zone surrounding the Francis Scott Key Bridge remains in place to safeguard persons, vessels, and the marine environment. The mayor’s office stated that no vessel or person would be permitted to enter the safety zone unless they first acquire authorization from the COTP or a recognized representative.

A survey is also being conducted to establish the hardness of the ground around the Dali to develop a removal strategy.

Two crane barges, a 650-ton crane, and a 330-ton crane are operating on the scene. The 230-ton land-based crane will offload and process the wreckage at Tradepoint Atlantic before transporting it to a disposal site.

The US Coast Guard, US Army Corps of Engineers, Maryland Department of the Environment, Maryland Transportation Authority, and Maryland State Police, in collaboration with Witt O’Brien’s Synergy Marine, are leading the Unified Command activities.

Salvage teams are separating portions of the steel bridge with gas-powered cutters before transporting them to a disposal site. Simultaneously, salvage divers will conduct underwater surveys to determine future activities.

“Every lifting operation requires engineering analysis to inform salvage operation plans,” Baltimore Mayor Brandon Scott’s office stated.

The Unified Command is also working with BGE to alleviate the pressure on an underwater pipeline that spans the channel and runs beneath the incident site. The Command intends to relocate the pipeline to avoid any hazards or risks.

The Baltimore area of the Army Corps of Engineers activated its Emergency Operations Center, allowing more than 1,100 engineering, construction, contracting, and operations specialists to assist local, state, and federal authorities.

They are patrolling the waterways of the Harbor and the Patapsco River for drift and debris that could impede navigation.

Money is Available for Workers Affected by the Bridge Collapse

Thousands of employees are immediately affected by the Key Bridge collapse.

Gov. Moore indicated that federal funds will be acquired to assist workers in making up for lost revenue.

Following the bridge collapse, the Small Business Administration approved a disaster declaration, which means that small businesses harmed by the collapse can now seek for federal disaster loan aid.

Applications are currently open and must be submitted electronically through this website by December 30, 2024.

Maryland Gets Initial Cash for Bridge Cleanup

Maryland was approved for an initial $60 million in federal funds for the cleanup and recovery effort.

The state requested Emergency Relief money for mobilization, operations, and debris recovery.

President Joe Biden stated that he intended to press the federal government to pay for the whole repair of the bridge, and he promised to work with Maryland authorities to provide as much assistance as feasible.

“I intend that the federal government will pay for the entire cost of reconstructing that bridge, and I expect Congress to support my effort,” Biden said, adding that he intends to visit Baltimore as soon as possible.

The state of Maryland’s $60 million estimate for first expenses is, at most, 10% of the expected cost of disaster response, CBS News revealed after a discussion with the Maryland Congressional delegation.

The Maryland delegation discussed potential expenditures surpassing $1 billion and the “need for an emergency supplemental” aid package from Congress.

No Drone Zone

According to the FBI, numerous persons attempted to illegally fly drones over the collapse site, interfering with recovery efforts.

A ban applies within a three-mile radius and at elevations of 1,500 feet or lower.

“It is hazardous for the personnel to be out there working. If we have any aircraft, whether fixed-wing or rotary, it will interfere with them, thus we must suspend operations if there is a drone. We appreciate that drone aficionados want to be out here and get these photographs, but it’s risky and will shut down operations,” FBI Special Agent David Rodski told WJZ Investigator Mike Hellgren. “By the way, we’re going to find and find you. These are federal reforms, with substantial felony charges.

Port of Baltimore Shuts Down for Vessels

All ship and vessel movement into and out of the port has been suspended, however it remains open for trucks.

According to Census data, the port is the ninth-busiest in the United States, handling more than $80 billion in imports and exports last year, the highest level in two decades. It is also home to Royal Caribbean, Carnival, and Norwegian Cruise Line.

The port directly provides 15,300 employees, with another 140,000 jobs in the surrounding area tied to port activity. The occupations generate a total of $3.3 billion in personal income, according to CBS News.

“The most urgent priority is to open the Port of Baltimore because it is essential to the livelihood of people here in Baltimore, Maryland, and the economies across our country and around the world,” U.S. Senator Chris Van Hollen said in a news conference on Wednesday.

Maryland senators are considering emergency legislation to provide pay replacement for thousands of Port of Baltimore workers affected by the disruption.

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