Biden Gives Details On Baltimore Bridge And Port Reopening Timeline

Congressional Republicans have indicated they might throw a wrench into the president's plan to reopen the bridge with federal funds.

President Joe Biden said the Port of Baltimore, impacted by the Francis Scott Key Bridge collapse, would resume normal operations by the end of May as he once again pledged federal government support for the area on Friday.

His remarks come 10 days after the Francis Scott Key Bridge was rammed by an enormous container ship, killing six construction workers who were repairing potholes on the road. Some of their bodies have yet to be recovered.

Biden revealed that one of the workers, a 24-year-old named Carlos, had texted a loved one shortly before his death to say his crew had just laid cement and was waiting for it to dry.

“We’ll also never forget the contributions each of these men made to this city. We’re going to keep working hard to recover each of them. And you know, my vow is: We will not rest, as Carlos said, until the cement has dried and the entirety of a new bridge, a new bridge, [is built],” Biden said.

Grant funds totaling some $8 million will help a nearby port, Sparrows Point, take on more ships, Biden said, adding that his administration would also be handing out “dislocated worker grants” and low-interest loans to affected small businesses.

Shipping traffic has needed to be rerouted as the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers works to clear the bridge debris; Biden said that “thousands of tons of mangled steel remain lodged in the water.” Officials have been able to clear two channels, Biden said, with a third opening by the end of the month.

President Joe Biden delivers a speech in front of the site of the deadly Francis Scott Key Bridge collapse in Baltimore on April 5.
President Joe Biden delivers a speech in front of the site of the deadly Francis Scott Key Bridge collapse in Baltimore on April 5.
Anadolu via Getty Images

Biden pledged last week that the federal government would also foot the bill for the bridge’s replacement.

“And I expect the Congress to support my effort,” Biden said, in spite of declining appetite for bipartisanship across the legislative branches.

The House Freedom Caucus signaled their intention to put a wrench in Biden’s plan earlier on Friday, issuing a statement demanding any bridge funding come with strings.

“It’s important that (1) we first seek maximum liability from the foreign shipping companies upfront and (2) the Port of Baltimore draws upon already available federal funds,” said the group, which is composed of a small but influential number of conservative and libertarian-leaning members.

Rebuilding the bridge could take years and cost hundreds of millions, experts have warned, with much of the speed dependent on cutting bureaucratic red tape.

Biden got an aerial tour of the downed bridge and grounded ship from Marine 1 after flying in from the White House. He then got a briefing from officials in charge of the response on the ground, where he was told that two shallower-draft channels — one 11 feet deep, the other 14 — have already been opened, allowing 15% of the traffic the port normally sees to resume.

Army Corps of Engineers Gen. John Lloyd, pointing at slides on a flat-screen monitor, told Biden the next step is to open a 280-foot-wide, 35-foot-deep channel that would allow about three-quarters of the traffic that the port ordinarily handles.

Lloyd said 51 divers were at his disposal to survey and clear the wreckage, eventually reopening the 50-foot-deep “federal channel.”

“We’re going to get this done,” he told Biden. The president said the original deep-water channel would resume operations by the end of May.

“The nation has your back,” Biden told the community.

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