Baltimore bridge collapse a ‘national economic catastrophe’

Baltimore bridge collapse a ‘national economic catastrophe’

The collapsed Francis Scott Key Bridge lies on the roof of the container ship Dali in Baltimore, Maryland on March 29, 2024.

Almond Ngan | Afp | Getty Images

The collapse of the Francis Scott Key Bridge in Baltimore on Tuesday is likely to send shockwaves through the U.S. economy as a key shipping route for certain goods remains blocked for the foreseeable future, officials said Sunday.

“This is not [just] a disaster in Baltimore, not a disaster in Maryland. “This is also a national economic disaster,” Maryland Gov. Wes Moore said on CNN’s “State of the Union” on Sunday.

The canal, now blocked by the debris, is a major access point to the Port of Baltimore, which Moore called one of the “busiest.” [and] “the most active” in the nation.

“This will impact the Kentucky farmer. This will impact the Ohio auto dealer. This will impact restaurant ownership in Tennessee,” he said.

US Transportation Secretary Pete Buttigieg agreed with this opinion.

“It is important not only for the people and workers of Baltimore, but also for our national supply chains, to get this port back up and running as quickly as possible,” Buttigieg said on CBS’ “Face the Nation.”

The bridge collapsed on Tuesday after a large cargo ship crashed into it shortly before the collision. Two construction workers died; four are missing and presumed dead.

An operation to dislodge the ship, clear debris and reopen the canal began Saturday, officials said.

“Work is already underway on portions of the non-federal canal, and a 1,000-ton lifting crane is currently being installed on a barge,” Buttigieg said. Another 600-ton crane is on the way, he added.

There is still no timetable for completing this recovery work, Buttigieg said. The time frame for rebuilding the bridge is also unclear, he said.

Federal and local officials reiterated that the operation would be lengthy and complex.

“We have a ship almost the size of the Eiffel Tower now stuck in the canal where the Key Bridge is located,” said Governor Moore. “So it’s going to be a long road… But there’s movement coming.”

Why the Port of Baltimore is so important

The Port of Baltimore handled a record 1.1 million cargo containers in 2023, according to state data. This makes it the ninth-largest port in the country in terms of US trade volume, wrote Ryan Petersen, managing director of Flexport, a supply chain logistics company.

It also handled nearly 850,000 car and light truck shipments in 2023, more than any other port for the 13th straight year, according to the state.

“This port is the premier port for cars and farm equipment,” Baltimore Mayor Brandon Scott said on “Face the Nation” Sunday.

“So this is important for people in rural North Carolina, Kansas and Iowa,” he added. “This is important for the global economy.”

In addition, there are more than 15,000 people who work directly for the port and thousands of others whose livelihoods depend on it, Sen. Chris Van Hollen, D-Md., said on ABC’s “This Week.”

The Small Business Administration announced Saturday that it would make low-interest, long-term loans of up to $2 million available to local small businesses in the Mid-Atlantic region affected by the bridge collapse.

The U.S. government initially awarded Maryland $60 million in funding to clear the debris. The federal government will cover 90% of the cost of rebuilding the bridge, said Sen. Chris Van Hollen, D-Md. He plans to introduce legislation with Sen. Ben Cardin, D-Md., to cover the remaining 10%, Van Hollen said.

President Joe Biden said Tuesday he intends to have the federal government cover the entire cost of rebuilding the bridge and expects Congress to support that effort.

But some lawmakers have pushed back against the idea. Rep. Dan Meuser, R-PA, called Biden’s idea of ​​using federal funds to cover the entire cost “kind of outrageous.”

Although the current Congress is divided, Secretary Buttigieg expressed confidence that lawmakers would approve bridge funding on a bipartisan basis.

“If we can see Republicans and Democrats working together to pass President Biden’s infrastructure package, they can certainly work together to help America and Baltimore deal with this tragedy,” he said Sunday on MSNBC.

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2024-03-31 17:52:09