DOT releases $60M for Key Bridge cleanup

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Dive Brief:

  • The Federal Highway Administration announced $60 million in “quick release” emergency funds for the Maryland state DOT to rebuild the Francis Scott Key Bridge, according to a Thursday release.
  • The federal DOT described the immediately available funding as “a down payment toward initial funds,” adding that further emergency relief money will be made available as work continues. President Joe Biden on Tuesday pledged that the federal government would pay to rebuild the 1.6-mile-long span, which served as a major freight and commuting corridor.
  • The FHWA money will help restore “essential transportation” in the area, through debris removal, demolition, detours and emergency repairs. The FHWA is also providing technical assistance and site assessments as it administers emergency contracts for a new bridge. The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers is aiding with waterway debris management.

Dive Insight:

Located in the southeast portion of Baltimore’s I-695 Beltway, the Key Bridge collapsed in the early hours of Tuesday morning when the Dali, a 984-foot cargo ship, struck one of its piers. Six construction workers employed by Hunt Valley, Maryland-based Brawner Builders performing road maintenance on the bridge at the time of impact are believed to have died when they fell into the waters of the Patapsco River. 

The bodies of Alejandro Hernandez Fuentes, 35, and Dorlian Ronial Castillo Cabrera, 26, were recovered from a pickup truck submerged in about 25 feet of water, WBAL reported. The other workers have yet to be located or identified by officials, but, per CBS News, they include Maynor Yassir Suazo Sandoval and Miguel Luna.

Initial cleanup of the bridge debris has begun, U.S. Coast Guard Rear Adm. Shannon Gilreath said on Thursday. For now, workers will clear up debris from the collapse, then remove the ship before cleaning up the remaining debris, The New York Times reported. 

Maryland Gov. Wes Moore said the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers would transport “the largest crane in the Eastern Seaboard” to help with the cleanup, the New York Times reported. 

Moore also didn’t sugarcoat the severity of the cleanup work ahead, saying, “Our timeline will be long.” 

Demolition work could clear a pathway for ships in as soon as a month, an anonymous expert told CNN, but the total debris removal for the 1,200-foot area between the two piers’ main span, will likely take much longer.

The collapse also shut down the Port of Baltimore indefinitely. The port is a vital end point for the shipping and automotive industry, due to its proximity to railroads and location far inland. 

While dockworkers and truckers continued to move existing cargo at the port’s Southeast Baltimore terminals following the crash, most of the work at the seaport has been curtailed for now. 

“If they don’t get the shipping channel open, everything comes to a halt,” said Scott Cowan, president and CEO of the International Longshoremen’s Association Local 333, which represents Baltimore dockworkers.

Colin Campbell contributed to this report.

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