Biden Hails Fast Reopening of Baltimore Channel After Key Bridge Collision, Know More..
Biden Hails Fast Reopening of Baltimore Channel After Key Bridge Collision, Know More..

WASHINGTON: The Biden administration has hailed the swift reopening of Baltimore's main shipping channel, less than three months after a cargo ship collided with the Francis Scott Key Bridge, causing a major transportation disruption for the Northeastern United States.

Federal officials announced that full access to the channel has been restored following the removal of 50,000 tonnes of debris. This accomplishment was attributed to the expertise gained from a COVID-era task force, the collapse of a highway overpass, and the 2021 infrastructure law, according to government officials.

The collision on March 26 by the cargo ship Dali into the Francis Scott Key Bridge had severely affected a crucial transportation artery for the US Northeast. In response, President Joe Biden swiftly directed his aides to reopen the channel, rebuild the bridge, and committed the federal government to cover all costs. This was in stark contrast to previous criticism over the administration's handling of the 2023 train derailment in Ohio.

Maryland Governor Wes Moore and other officials will hold a press event on Wednesday to commemorate the reopening of the channel. The Coast Guard had established a Unified Command soon after the bridge collapse to coordinate search, recovery, and response efforts, involving 56 federal, state, and local agencies and 500 specialists.

"I think that one of the most important things we did was establish the unified command," said White House deputy chief of staff Natalie Quillian. "It provided clear command and control across stakeholders from federal and state governments and the private sector to manage a very complex operational challenge."

The US Army Corps of Engineers (USACE), responsible for the federal navigation channel, enlisted the help of the US Navy Supervisor of Salvage for the massive debris removal operation. "That's the power of the unified command," said Col. Estee Pinchasin, Baltimore district commander for USACE.

The Biden administration, drawing on lessons from the COVID-19 pandemic and the 2023 collapse of an Interstate-95 overpass in Philadelphia, was able to activate protocols quickly. This included setting up specialized offices to monitor supply chain issues and coordinating with business, labor, and port operators.

Transportation Secretary Pete Buttigieg highlighted the $1 trillion infrastructure law, which significantly increased spending on bridges and other projects, providing the administration with the necessary expertise and experience to handle major challenges.

Buttigieg's office approved $60 million in emergency funds for Maryland to rebuild and remove debris, while the US Army Corps and Coast Guard spent nearly $100 million on the bridge response and debris removal.

"A replacement bridge is estimated to cost between $1.7 billion and $1.9 billion, and federal officials are working to expedite environmental approvals. Maryland hopes to complete construction by late 2028," said Buttigieg.

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