Biden to Visit Baltimore Next Week in Wake of Bridge Disaster

The president has vowed to ’move heaven and earth’ to reopen the Port of Baltimore after a ship strike caused portions of a bridge to collapse into the river.

President Joe Biden will visit the city of Baltimore next week in the wake of the errant cargo ship strike that destroyed the center span of the Francis Scott Key Bridge, shutting down major sea and ground transportation arteries indefinitely.

The president made the announcement in response to a reporter’s question on March 29, three days after the calamity, saying that he would visit the city “next week” with Maryland Gov. Wes Moore. 

White House Press Secretary Karine Jean-Pierre said during a briefing on March 27 that the president would wait for an appropriate time to make a visit. 

“This is a major, major undertaking. And so we don’t want to get in the way. But you heard from the President. He wants to get there as quickly as he can,” Ms. Jean Pierre said. 

A specific date has not been announced. 

A Singaporean-flagged cargo vessel carrying some 4,700 containers rammed a supporting pillar of the bridge at 1:28 a.m. on March 26. The ship apparently lost power just prior to the crash and had made a mayday call to the U.S. Coast Guard. 

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The three center sections of the 1.6-mile bridge crumpled into the Patapsco River, carrying six construction workers with it. Two bodies were recovered the following day. Four others are presumed dead. 

Baltimore police were able to close access to the bridge based on the mayday call, likely preventing greater loss of life. 

Salvage efforts are now underway to reopen the shipping channel into the Port of Baltimore, a major economic engine for the city and region. Officials have not been willing to speculate on how long the port would remain closed, requiring the diversion of some 3,000 shipping containers per day to other East Coast ports and endangering the livelihood of some 8,000 employees. 

The port is among the 20 highest-volume ports in the country and ranks No. 10 in shipments of dry bulk materials. It is a major hub for the import and export of motor vehicles and farm equipment. 

The bridge was a part of Interstate 695, which forms the outer beltway of Baltimore, carrying some 30,000 vehicles per day. 

President Biden has said he would “move heaven and earth” to reopen the transportation channels, though rebuilding the bridge is widely expected to be a multi-year project. 

Maryland officials have requested emergency federal funding to begin clearing the rebuilding effort. 

The cost of clearing the waterway will be borne by the Army Corps of Engineers, according to Sen. Chris van Hollen (D-Md.).

“[President Biden] has ordered the Army Corps of Engineers to do everything necessary to clear the channel so that we can reopen those shipping lanes,” Mr. Van Hollen told reporters on March 27. “The Army Corps of Engineers and the federal government will pick up the costs for that,” he added.

Preliminary estimates place the cost between $40 million and $50 million, Mr. Van Hollen said.

Original News Source Link – Epoch Times

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