Bridge Repair Completed, Baltimore Port Reopens to Traffic

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The Port of Baltimore is set to see a return to normal commercial shipping levels by next month, following the reopening of the channel this week, 11 weeks after the devastating collapse of the Francis Scott Key Bridge. This marks the channel’s first full opening since the incident occurred in March.

Officials, including Maryland Governor Wes Moore, celebrated the reopening at a press conference by the water, expressing relief and optimism for the port’s operational future. The sound of a ship’s horn during Moore’s speech punctuated the significance of the moment, signaling the end of a difficult period for the port.

The collapse had forced many shipping companies to divert their ships to other ports, significantly impacting the local economy and disrupting the flow of goods through Baltimore, which is a major hub for automobiles and agricultural machinery. The cleanup effort, involving the removal of 50,000 tons of debris from the Patapsco River, has been extensive and costly, with an estimated price tag of $160 million shared among federal, state, and local authorities.

Officials expect shipping companies to return to Baltimore now that the channel is restored to its original dimensions. The port is on track to be fully operational by mid-July.

U.S. Transportation Secretary Pete Buttigieg emphasized the importance of the port to Baltimore and the broader region, indicating efforts to ensure the resumption of normal traffic patterns.

In the weeks leading up to the complete reopening, some commercial traffic had already resumed, including the passage of cruise and large container ships through parts of the channel. The bridge collapse and subsequent shutdown had a widespread economic impact, affecting jobs and businesses not just in Baltimore but in surrounding areas. Relief programs were established to mitigate some of these effects.

Port workers, represented by the International Longshoreman’s Association Local 333, have faced significant challenges but are optimistic about the port’s recovery and their job security with the channel now open.

The costs of the salvage operations and response efforts have reached millions, with the rebuilding of the bridge projected to cost nearly $2 billion, a project that officials hope to complete by 2028. President Joe Biden has committed federal support for the reconstruction, though the funding is pending Congressional approval.

The incident that precipitated these events involved the cargo ship Dali, which lost power and struck the bridge’s critical support column on March 26, causing a significant portion to collapse and resulting in six fatalities. Investigations into the crash are ongoing.

With the channel now reopened wider than before, two-way traffic can resume, and some of the additional safety measures put in place have been lifted, marking a significant step toward recovery for the Port of Baltimore and the surrounding community.

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