Baltimore Shipping Channel Will Partially Reopen By End of April

Baltimore Shipping Channel Will Partially Reopen By End of April


A shipping channel in the Baltimore harbor that has remained blocked since last week’s collapse of the Francis Scott Key Bridge will be partially reopened by the end of April, with full traffic expected to be restored by late May, the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers said Thursday.

The announcement comes on the eve of President Biden’s scheduled visit to the site of the wreckage on Friday. A giant container ship rammed into the bridge on March 26, causing the bridge to plunge into the waterway leading in and out of one of the nation’s busiest ports.

Officials have warned that clearing the warped, jagged debris from the channel will be a complex and potentially dangerous underwater salvage operation, as they scramble to reopen the Port of Baltimore, a key automobile hub that employs 8,000 people.

A 280-foot-wide, 35-foot-deep channel leading to the port is expected to be opened first, allowing for container ships and vessels transporting automobiles, the Army corps, which maintains the shipping channel to ensure that it is navigable, said in a statement. The channel will allow one-way traffic of vessels at a time to and from the port, according to the statement.

Officials are aiming to reopen the full 700-foot-wide, 50-foot-deep span of the navigation channel a month later, bringing access to the port back to its normal capacity, according to the statement.

On Friday, Mr. Biden is scheduled to go on an aerial tour of the wreckage and receive a briefing on the response and recovery efforts, according to the White House. He is also expected to meet with the loved ones of six construction workers who fell into the river with the bridge’s collapse and are presumed dead.

In the 10 days since the collapse, responders conducted underwater surveys and detailed structural analysis of the bridge’s wreckage to assess the work that lies ahead, according to the statement.

Two smaller temporary channels, at 11 feet and 14 feet in depth, had previously been cleared and opened to allow some small barges and other vessels to travel to and from the port.

Experts said divers will first need to cut the metal and concrete structures that now sit at the bottom of the Patapsco River into more manageable pieces, which will then be hoisted to the surface by cranes. Divers will be working amid swift currents and low visibility.

The reconstruction of the bridge, which carried about 35 million vehicles annually and spanned 1.6 miles over the river, will be a much longer process that could take several years. The Biden administration said last week that it was allocating $60 million in emergency federal highway funds, the initial costs of what will likely be a far more costly operation.

Mr. Biden has pledged that the federal government would pay for the bridge to be rebuilt.


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