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Tuesday, April 16, 2024

Maryland Governor Urges Congress to Fund Bridge Rebuild

Maritime Activity Reports, Inc.

April 1, 2024

(Photo: Kimberly Reaves / U.S. Coast Guard)

(Photo: Kimberly Reaves / U.S. Coast Guard)

With efforts underway to clean up thousands of tons of steel debris from the collapsed bridge in Baltimore's harbor, Maryland Governor Wes Moore on Sunday urged Republicans to work with Democrats to approve the federal funding needed for rebuilding the bridge and to get the port economy back on its feet.

Baltimore's Francis Scott Key bridge collapsed early on Tuesday morning, killing six road workers, when a container ship nearly the size of the Eiffel Tower lost power and crashed into a support pylon. Much of the span crashed into the Patapsco River, blocking the Port of Baltimore's shipping channel.

The Biden administration released $60 million in initial emergency aid on Thursday to assist in cleaning up the bridge debris and reopening the port, which is the largest in the U.S. for "roll-on, roll-off" vehicle imports and exports of farm and construction equipment. The port has been closed since Tuesday, leaving in limbo the jobs of some 15,000 people who rely on its daily operations.

Federal officials have told Maryland lawmakers the final cost of rebuilding the bridge could soar to at least $2 billion, Roll Call reported, citing a source familiar with the discussions.

Democratic President Joe Biden has pledged that the federal government will cover the cost, but that will depend on passage of legislation authorizing the funds by both the Republican-led House of Representatives and Democratic-led Senate. The divided Congress has been repeatedly riven by partisan battles over funding, with hardline Republicans often at odds even with members of their own party.

Moore, a Democrat, said Republicans should be willing to approve the funding for the sake of not just the city of Baltimore, but for the national economy.

"The reason that we need people to move in a bipartisan basis ... is not because we need you to do Maryland a favor," Moore told CNN on Sunday. 

"We need to make sure that we're actually moving quickly to get the American economy going again, because the Port of Baltimore is instrumental in our larger economic growth."

Secretary of Transportation Pete Buttigieg expressed optimism on Sunday that Congress would approve the funds necessary for the cleanup and rebuild, noting that the divided legislative body had passed Biden's $1 trillion infrastructure package in 2021.

"If there's anything left in this country that is more bipartisan than infrastructure, it should be emergency response. This is both, and I hope that Congress will be willing if and when we turn to them," Buttigieg told CBS's "Face the Nation."

Biden was expected to visit the bridge collapse site this week.

An enormous crane began cutting up portions of the collapsed bridge to prepare them for removal on Saturday, which officials said was the first step of what will be a long and complicated cleanup. A spokesperson for the governor's office said on Sunday that a 200-ton (180-metric ton) piece of the bridge had been removed and officials were working to determine the best strategy for pulling the ship off the wreckage.

The wreckage in the water, as well as hazardous weather conditions, have made it impossible for divers to continue searching for the four remaining bodies of the deceased construction workers in recent days, Moore said.

Moore and other officials have declined to give an estimated timeline for the reopening of the port and the rebuilding of the bridge.


(Reuters - Reporting by Gabriella Borter; additional reporting by Brendan O'Brien and Hannah Lang; Editing by Mary Milliken, Leslie Adler and Jonathan Oatis)

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