Francis Scott Key Bridge collapse

Francis Scott Key Bridge collapse
Refer to caption <! -- Per MOS:ALT -->
Dali under one of the collapsed segments of the bridge
Map
DateMarch 26, 2024; 26 days ago (2024-03-26)
Time1:28:49a.m. EDT (05:28:49 UTC)
LocationBaltimore metropolitan area, Maryland, United States
Coordinates39°12′56″N 76°31′47″W / 39.21556°N 76.52972°W / 39.21556; -76.52972
TypeBridge collapse
CauseLoss of propulsion on ship, leading to allision with pier and subsequent collapse of the bridge truss.
Deaths6 (4 confirmed, 2 presumed)
Non-fatal injuries2+
Property damage
  • Collapse of bridge spans
  • Damage to Dali and its cargo
  • At least seven vehicles submerged

On March 26, 2024, at 1:28a.m. EDT (05:28 UTC), the main spans and the three nearest northeast approach spans of the Francis Scott Key Bridge across the Patapsco River in the Baltimore metropolitan area of Maryland, United States, collapsed after the container ship Dali struck one of its piers. Four members of a maintenance crew working on the roadway were killed and another two are presumed dead, while two more were rescued from the river.

The collapse blocked most shipping to and from the Port of Baltimore. Maryland Governor Wes Moore called the event a "global crisis" that had affected more than 8,000 jobs. The economic impact of the waterway's closure has been estimated at $15 million per day.

Background

Dali, though larger than most earlier ships, carries less than half the cargo of today's largest container ships. Bigger ships can cause bigger disasters, such as the 1,300-foot vessel in the 2021 Suez Canal obstruction.

The Francis Scott Key Bridge was a steel arch-shaped continuous truss bridge, the second-longest in the United States and third-longest in the world. Opened in 1977, the 1.6-mile (2.6 km; 1.4 nmi) bridge ran northeast from Hawkins Point, Baltimore, to Sollers Point in Dundalk in Baltimore County, Maryland. Before being damaged, it carried Interstate 695, a beltway around Baltimore; its four lanes (two in each direction) were used by some 34,000 vehicles each day, including 3,000 trucks, many of which hauled hazardous materials barred from the two harbor tunnels.

The bridge crossed one of the busiest shipping routes in the United States: the lower Patapsco River, which connects the Port of Baltimore to the Chesapeake Bay and the Atlantic Ocean. In 2023, the port handled more than 444,000 passengers and 52.3 million tons of foreign cargo valued at $80 billion. It was the second-largest U.S. port for coal, and had been the leading port for automobiles and light trucks for 13 straight years, handling more than 847,000 vehicles in 2023. It employed 15,000 people and indirectly supported 140,000 others, annually helping to generate $3.3 billion in wages and salaries, $2.6 billion in business revenue, and $400 million in state and local tax revenue.

MV Dali is a container ship registered in Singapore, and at the time of the collision (in legal terms, allision) was operated by Synergy Marine Group and owned by Grace Ocean Private Ltd, both based in Singapore. A Neopanamax vessel completed in 2015, Dali has a length of 980 feet (300 m), a 157-foot (48 m) beam, and a 40-foot (12.2 m) draft. Danish shipping company Maersk chartered Dali upon its delivery. Once in service, Dali had undergone 27 inspections at ports globally, including two in 2023: one in June in San Antonio, Chile, where a fuel-pressure gauge was repaired; and the second in September by the U.S. Coast Guard in New York, which found no problems.

In March 2024, Dali was crewed by 20 Indian nationals and one Sri Lankan. The ship traveled from Panama to New York, arriving on March 19, then sailed to the Virginia International Gateway in Portsmouth, Virginia. The ship left Virginia on March 22 and the following day arrived in Baltimore, where it underwent engine maintenance. An anonymous source told the Associated Press that an alarm on the ship's refrigerated containers went off while the ship was docked, likely due to an inconsistent power supply.

When the bridge was completed in 1977, the largest container ships could hold 2,000 to 3,000 twenty-foot equivalent unit (TEU) containers. After the Panama Canal expansion began to allow the passage of 14,000-TEU vessels in 2016, the Maryland Port Administration installed new cranes and dredged the harbor to enable the port to accommodate the larger ships. At the time of its collision, Dali was loaded nearly to its 10,000-TEU capacity with 4,700 forty-foot containers.

In 1980, a ship roughly one-third the size of Dali struck and lightly damaged one of the bridge's piers. After the bridge collapsed in 2024, anonymous former agency officials told The Washington Post that the Maryland Transportation Authority (MDTA) did not consider studying the possibility of a collision with a larger ship, and instead spent decades studying how terrorists might attack the bridge after the September 11 attacks or inspecting for structural flaws similar to those that caused the I-35W Mississippi River bridge collapse in 2007. In 2018, the World Association for Waterborne Transport Infrastructure issued a report that noted that ship collisions with bridges are not infrequent and regularly cause damage that varies in significance, but do not typically result in catastrophic collisions that cause bridge collapses.

Federal regulations require national highway bridges to conform to standards established by the American Association of State Highway and Transportation Officials, but AASHTO did not specify how strong bridges should be to withstand ship collisions until 1994. Other federal regulations for protecting bridges from ship collisions were updated in 1991 after the Sunshine Skyway Bridge collapse in 1980, but existing bridges were exempted by a grandfather clause, and the Francis Scott Key Bridge piers lacked the level of fender system or island barriers required of newer bridges. However, engineering experts debate whether such bridge protection systems could have prevented the collapse given Dali's size.

Collapse

Upstream view of the bridge in 2015; Dali hit the fourth pier from left.
MV Dali immobilized by the wreckage

Dali left the Port of Baltimore at 12:44a.m. EDT (04:44 UTC) on March 26, 2024, bound for Colombo, Sri Lanka. The ship had two local harbor pilots on board. Following standard operating procedure in Baltimore, tugboats that piloted the ship from its berth were released once the ship was in the channel. At 1:24a.m., the ship suffered a "complete blackout" and began to drift out of the shipping channel; a backup generator supported electrical systems but did not provide power to the propulsion system. At 1:27a.m., a mayday call was made from the ship, notifying the Maryland Department of Transportation that the crew had lost propulsion and control of the vessel and that a collision with the bridge was possible.

One of the pilots requested that traffic be stopped from crossing the bridge immediately. The ship's lights went out and came on again some moments later; then again went off and returned just before impact as smoke once again began rising from the funnel. At the pilot's request, the MDTA Police dispatch asked officers to stop traffic in both directions at 1:27:53a.m.; outer loop (eastbound/northbound) traffic was stopped at the south side after 20 seconds. Inner loop (westbound/southbound) traffic was stopped at the north side by 1:28:58a.m., around the time of the collapse. The Maritime and Port Authority of Singapore (MPA) reported that the ship dropped anchor before hitting the bridge, as part of its emergency procedures.

At 1:28:45a.m., the ship struck the southwest pier of the central truss arch span, at roughly 8 knots (9.2 mph; 15 km/h). AIS data showed the ship traveling at a speed of 8.7 knots (10.0 mph; 16.1 km/h) at 1:25a.m. before departing the channel and slowing to 6.8 knots (7.8 mph; 12.6 km/h) by the time of the collision two minutes later.

Within seconds of the collision, the bridge broke apart in several places, leaving sections protruding from the water and the roadway's approaches cut off. The main span fell onto the ship's bow and a section of it came to rest there. The bridge strike and partial collapse were recorded on video.

Multiple vehicles were on the bridge at the time it collapsed, though initially no one was believed to be inside them. Workers were repairing potholes on the bridge and were in their vehicles on a break at the time of the collapse. A resident living near the bridge recalled being awakened by deep rumbling that shook his residence for several seconds following the collapse, which he said "felt like an earthquake".

Emergency teams began receiving 911 calls at 1:30a.m. The Baltimore Police Department was alerted to the collapse at 1:35a.m. Large rescue and recovery efforts were begun. The Coast Guard deployed boats and a helicopter as part of rescue efforts. Fifty public safety divers in eight teams were dispatched to search for people who fell into the river.

Damage

A labelled diagram of the bridge, with Dali's impact point and the collapsed sections illustrated
Panoramic photography of the scene as depicted in the diagram.
The collapsed portion of the bridge comprises the three spans under the metal truss, and three others to the northeast (left of the images, in Dundalk, Maryland; right is Hawkins Point, Baltimore).
2016 photo of the pier struck by the ship
Aerial view of the damage
Sentinel-2 satellite images of Baltimore Harbor
March 25, 2024: one day before the collapse
April 14, 2024: 19 days after the collapse

The bridge's continuous truss relied on its overall structure to maintain integrity; in engineering terms, it was fracture critical, meaning it had no redundancy against removal of support of any particular part of it. The collision destroyed its southwest main truss pier, causing the south and central spans to collapse, which led to the collapse of a northern span. Each failure sequence took seconds, and within 30 seconds the entirety of the trussed spans, and three others, had fallen.

The bridge was determined to be fully compliant with the building code[which?] when it collapsed. The bridge had dolphin and fender protection against ship impact, but these protections were insufficient.

Of Dali's 4,700 shipping containers, 13 were damaged in the collision. Two fell into the water, neither of which carried hazardous substances. Dali sustained hull damage above the water line and the ship was impaled by remnants of the bridge superstructure (estimated to be 3,000 to 4,000 tonnes of bridge wreckage), which pressed it against the channel floor. The ship remained watertight, and the shipping company initially claimed there was no water pollution directly from the ship. Authorities installed 2,400 feet (730 m) of water containment booms around the ship after a sheen was detected in the waterway, which was believed to have been produced by 21 US gallons (17 imp gal; 79 L) of oil that leaked from a bow thruster on the ship. On March 27, the National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB) announced an investigation into a hazmat spill resulting from breached containers aboard Dali, including some of the 56 containers that carried about 764 tons of hazardous materials: primarily corrosives, flammable substances (including lithium batteries), and Class 9 materials.

Casualties

NOAA reported a water temperature of 47 °F (8 °C) at the time of the collapse. Two people were rescued from the river: one was in "very serious" condition and the other uninjured. One of those rescued was a Mexican national. The lawyer of one of the survivors later said that his client was in his car at the time of the collapse, but was able to roll down the window of his vehicle, which was on manual, in order to escape. Six people, all part of the maintenance crew working on the bridge, were reported missing and presumed dead following the suspension of a Coast Guard search. One was identified as a Honduran national, two were from Guatemala, and the others were from El Salvador and Mexico.

Five submerged vehicles, including three passenger vehicles and a transit mixer, were detected using sonar. Emergency services also used drones and infrared technology in the search. The bodies of two of the maintenance crew were recovered from inside a red pickup truck: a 35-year-old Mexican national and a 26-year-old Guatemalan national. They were found at a depth of 25 feet (7.6 m) below the mid-section of the bridge. The search was suspended based on the condition of the debris and risk of further collapse. On April 5, the body of a 38-year-old Honduran national was recovered from a submerged vehicle. A 35-year-old Guatemalan national, a 49-year-old Salvadoran national, and a Mexican national remained among the missing. On April 14, the remains of a fourth worker were found in one of the construction vehicles; the worker's family has requested their identity be withheld.

Occupational Safety and Health Administration regulations require that construction companies keep skiffs available at construction sites over waterways. Coast Guard officials said they were unaware of whether the company that employed the highway workers had one available, and satellite imagery at the time of the bridge collapse does not appear to show one present at the bridge. The company declined to respond to press inquiries about whether a boat was available.

Dali's crew and the two pilots were accounted for and did not sustain any serious injuries. One crew member was slightly injured and required some stitches. Groups such as the Baltimore International Seafarers' Center made efforts to support the crew members as they remained on the boat, including providing them with Wi-Fi hotspots.

Investigation

External videos
video icon Press conference with NTSB Chair Jennifer Homendy, March 26, 2024, C-SPAN
Three people in FBI uniforms are on a boat. They are closely inspecting the mangled remains of bridge struts poking out of the water in front of them.
An evidence response team from the FBI examines a segment of the bridge several hours after the collapse.
Folding tables are arranged in rows and a square in a large presentation room in a police station. People in various uniforms representing many agencies are seated at the tables and focused on their laptops. The center of the room has a table piled with boxes of pizza, salads, and other provisions.
Officials coordinate response and rescue efforts at the Maryland Transportation Authority headquarters on the day of the collapse

The NTSB began an investigation and sent a team to the site. The agency is expected to release a preliminary report two to four weeks after the collapse, and later issue urgent safety recommendations, while its investigation could take between 12 and 24 months. The Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) was also deployed to the scene, but said that terrorism was not suspected in the incident. On March 27, a Unified Command Joint Information Center was established to coordinate the investigation and salvage. The command includes team members from the U.S. Coast Guard, Maryland Department of the Environment, MDTA, Maryland State Police, and Synergy Marine, as the primary stakeholders.

As the flag state, Singapore's Transport Safety Investigation Bureau (TSIB) and the MPA sent personnel to Baltimore to help in investigations. The MPA said it offered support to the NTSB and the Office of Marine Safety.

NTSB personnel boarded the ship late on March 26 and obtained the voyage data recorder (VDR), which would help investigators develop a timeline of events leading up to the collision. Several possible factors were being considered, including the possibility that contaminated fuel or an improper grade of fuel had caused the loss of the ship's power. At a Senate Commerce Committee hearing on April 10, NTSB Chair Jennifer Homendy said the agency would not likely issue its preliminary report until the first week of May. She said investigators were gathering data about the ship's electrical system, examining its circuit breakers with the assistance of Dali shipbuilder Hyundai Heavy Industries, and comparing the bridge's design and pier protection to current regulatory standards.

On April 15, FBI agents searched Dali in a criminal investigation to establish whether the crew left the port aware that the ship had problems with its electrical or mechanical systems.

Timeline

This timeline is based mostly on NTSB's preliminary analysis of events from the ship's VDR and the MDTA Police log.

Time
(a.m. EDT)
Event
00:39 Dali departs Seagirt Marine Terminal
01:07 Dali enters Fort McHenry Channel
01:24 Dali underway at a heading of ~141° at ~8 knots (9.2 mph; 15 km/h)
01:24:32 The lights go out on Dali
01:24:59 Total power failure; propulsion is lost. Multiple audible alarms; VDR ceases to record ship systems, but continues to record audio
01:25:31 The lights on Dali come back on
TBD Verbal rudder commands are recorded by VDR
01:25:40 Dense black smoke begins to pour from Dali's funnel
01:26:02 VDR resumes recording ship systems
01:26:37 The lights go out again on Dali
01:26:39 Pilot requests tugboat assistance, the first signal of distress
TBD Pilot association dispatcher informs the MDTA duty officer of Dali's lack of steering
01:27:04 Pilot orders port anchor be dropped; issues additional steering commands
01:27:09 The lights on Dali come back on again
01:27:25 VHF mayday: Pilot reports total blackout and that Dali was approaching the bridge, the second signal of distress
01:27:53 MDTA duty officer dispatches units to close the bridge
01:28:09 Last moving vehicle leaves the bridge
01:28:49 Dragging anchor, Dali at ~7 knots (8.1 mph; 13 km/h) first collides with the bridge
01:29:00 Dali continues dragging anchor; first sounds of collision recorded by VDR
01:29:27 MDTA reports collapse of bridge
01:29:33 Sounds of collapse cease
01:29:39 Pilot reports collapse of bridge
01:29:51 All vehicular approaches to the bridge reported shut down

Impact force

The force of the impact with the pier was estimated by The New York Times writers using equations from the AASHTO publication Guide Specifications and Commentary for Vessel Collision Design of Highway Bridges as between 120 and 230 meganewtons. In comparison, Saturn V rockets generated 35 meganewtons of thrust at launch.

Aftermath

The debris from the collapse has blocked maritime access to virtually the entirety of the Port of Baltimore; nearly 30 ships had signaled the port as their destination, and more than 40 were trapped. Only one part of the Port of Baltimore was unaffected: the Tradepoint Atlantic marine terminal at Sparrows Point, on the seaward side of the Key Bridge. Tradepoint Atlantic said on April 3 that it began preparing for an influx of redirected ships and estimated that it would unload and process 10,000 vehicles over the next 15 days.

Maryland governor Wes Moore declared a state of emergency shortly thereafter, and Maryland Secretary of Transportation Paul Wiedefeld ordered the suspension of all shipping to and from the Port of Baltimore until further notice; trucking facilities remained operational. At 4:15a.m., the Federal Aviation Administration imposed a 5-nautical-mile (5.8 mi; 9.3 km) temporary flight restriction around the incident site. Maersk, which chartered the vessel, saw the price of its shares decline by about 2% when trading opened at Nasdaq Copenhagen on March 26.

Salvage

Chesapeake 1000 on-site

The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers (USACE) is taking the lead in removing the fallen portions of the bridge. The U.S. Navy is planning to remove the submerged portions using barges with heavy-lift cranes, including the "largest crane ship on the East Coast": the Chesapeake 1000 of the Donjon Marine Co., able to lift 1,000 short tons (890 long tons; 910 t). The designated salvor is Resolve Marine. Thirty-two USACE personnel and 38 Navy contractors were deployed to the scene. More than 1,100 engineering specialists were[needs update] to join them. Seven floating cranes, ten tugboats, nine barges, eight salvage vessels, and five Coast Guard boats were deployed around the bridge.

On March 30, engineers began removing the first piece of the bridge from the river. On April 1, the Coast Guard opened a temporary passage for commercial work vessels involved in recovery and clearing efforts, with a controlling depth of 11 feet (3.4 m), a horizontal clearance of 264 feet (80 m) and a vertical clearance of 96 feet (29 m), and was approving ships' passage case by case. The next day, the first work vessel used the alternate channel: a tugboat pushing a fuel barge to Dover Air Force Base in Delaware. A second channel was opened the next day, as work continued on a third channel. On April 7, salvage crews started removing containers from Dali. By April 16, the salvage operation had removed more than 1,000 tons of steel from the waterway.

Supply chain disruptions

Except for the Sparrows Point terminal, Baltimore's marine terminals closed to shipping and shall remain so until a channel is cleared. This led shipping lines to seek alternate ports for ships en route to Baltimore and forced shippers to attempt to arrange for land transportation from those ports before unloaded cargoes would incur late fees: namely, detention and demurrage charges.

On March 26, three shipping lines—CMA CGM, then COSCO and Evergreen—declared force majeure in terminating their contracts of carriage with clients once cargo is delivered to diversion ports. On March 28, the Mediterranean Shipping Company followed suit, while Maersk announced that it would provide transport from diversion ports to its clients. Maersk paused all service to Baltimore indefinitely.

Stellantis and General Motors said they will divert vehicle imports to other ports, and Toyota reported that some of their exports could be affected. The bridge collapse also isolated the terminals of Mercedes-Benz, CSX at Curtis Bay, and Consol Energy. On April 1, CSX announced a new route for diverted Baltimore imports arriving at the Port of New York and New Jersey. CSX completed its first diverted cargo shipments on April 4, while Norfolk Southern announced a dedicated service for diverted imports from New York to Baltimore on April 3.

While economists said the port closure was unlikely to reduce U.S. economic growth, Dun & Bradstreet estimated the weekly cost of the supply chain disruptions caused by the port closure to be $1.7 billion. On March 28, New York governor Kathy Hochul and New Jersey governor Phil Murphy offered the use of ports in their states in handling affected cargo shipments to minimize supply chain disruptions.

USACE initially estimated that clearing the channel to reopen the port would probably take weeks rather than months, and experts familiar with the salvage operations said the reopening could happen as early as May. On April 4, USACE announced a tentative schedule to open a limited-access one-way channel for barges and roll-on/roll-off ships by the end of April and the entire Fort McHenry Channel by the end of May.

By April 20, three temporary channels had been opened, enabling roughly 15% of pre-collapse shipping to pass. The channels are named for local landmarks; from north to south, they are Sollers Point, Fort Carroll, and Hawkins Point Shoal.

Local effects

Exit 1 (MD 173; seen in 2019), where eastbound I-695 traffic is forced to exit

I-695 remains closed between the MD 173 and MD 157 interchanges. Traffic is being detoured along I-95 and I-895, which cross Baltimore Harbor respectively at the Fort McHenry and Baltimore Harbor tunnels; vehicles carrying hazardous loads are not permitted in either tunnel. Vehicles with hazardous loads and those exceeding the tunnels' vertical clearances are being detoured along the western section of I-695, bypassing from the north and west the entire city of Baltimore. Warnings of traffic delays were issued to motorists as far away as Virginia.

Cruise ships originally bound for Baltimore docked in other cities. For example, Carnival Legend docked in Norfolk, Virginia, on March 31 and seventy buses took passengers back to Maryland. On April 4, Vision of the Seas was diverted to Norfolk, where its 2,200 passengers boarded buses for Baltimore.

Governor Moore said that 8,000 jobs could be affected by the bridge's collapse and called the disaster a "global crisis". The waterway's closure is causing an estimated daily loss of $15 million. On March 30, the Small Business Administration (SBA) announced that it would make low-interest and long-term loans of up to $2 million to small businesses hurt by the bridge collapse in the Mid-Atlantic states, and the SBA received 500 applications by April 4.

Governor Wes Moore signs the PORT Act into law on April 9, 2024

In the Maryland General Assembly, Bill Ferguson, the president of the Maryland Senate, and state delegate Luke Clippinger introduced emergency legislation to provide money to workers and local businesses affected by the disaster. After discussions with the Moore administration, Ferguson added a provision to establish a state scholarship for the children of the maintenance workers killed in the collapse. On April 8, the General Assembly passed a bill to draw upon the state's rainy day fund to pay port employees who were thrown out of work and are not covered by state unemployment insurance; the governor may also use the fund to help some small businesses avoid layoffs and to encourage companies that shift to other ports to return to a reopened Baltimore port. Governor Moore signed the bill the following day. On April 12, Moore issued an executive order under the law to start a $12.5 million program operated by the Maryland Department of Labor to prevent layoffs by port businesses.

Republican state senators Bryan Simonaire and Johnny Ray Salling introduced another bill to allow the governor to declare a year-long state of emergency after damage to critical infrastructure, but it would also have eliminated the authority to seize private property for government use, as now allowed under a state of emergency; Simonaire withdrew the bill after discussions with the Moore administration.

Litigation and insurance

Barclays, Morningstar DBRS, Fitch Ratings, and the Insurance Information Institute estimated that the insured losses from the collision could range from $1 billion to $4 billion, potentially surpassing the losses from the 2012 Costa Concordia disaster. Lloyd's of London chairman Bruce Carnegie-Brown said the claims could become the largest marine insurance loss in history. Wrongful death liabilities were estimated to total $350 million to $700 million. Moody's Ratings officials said most claims would likely fall on reinsurance companies, about 80 of which provide some $3 billion in coverage to Dali's insurers. The Maryland state government's insurance for the bridge covers up to $350 million for damage, while the bridge cost $60 million to construct in 1977 (about $302 million in 2023).

On April1, Grace Ocean Private and Synergy Marine Group filed a joint petition in the Maryland U.S. District Court to limit their liability to about $43.6 million under the Limitation of Liability Act of 1851. Chief judge James K. Bredar is overseeing the proceedings. Grace Ocean and Synergy Marine are represented by Duane Morris and Blank Rome. The legal process could last up to a decade and has been described as likely being "one of the most contentious marine insurance cases in recent decades". On April 17, Grace Ocean Private filed a general average declaration to require cargo owners to cover part of the salvage costs.

On April 15, the city of Baltimore hired personal injury firm Saltz Mongeluzzi & Bendesky and civil rights firm DiCello Levitt to pursue legal action against Grace Ocean Private, Synergy Marine Group, and Maersk.

Responses

President Biden is briefed on the collapse
External videos
video icon Remarks by U.S. president Joe Biden on the bridge collapse, March 26, 2024, C-SPAN

President Joe Biden was briefed on the disaster within hours of the collision. U.S. Secretary of Transportation Pete Buttigieg contacted Maryland governor Wes Moore and Baltimore mayor Brandon Scott to offer his department's support. Moore addressed the families of the victims in Spanish, saying, "Estamos contigo, ahora y siempre [we are with you, now and always]". Maryland Center for History and Culture vice president David Belew said, "Our harbor, port and many families are fundamentally changed" by the disaster. On March 27, Moore and Biden thanked Dali's crew for transmitting the mayday call warning of the ship's power failure and the impending collision. On March 28, three officers of the MDTA were recognized at the opening game of the Baltimore Orioles for their role in stopping traffic before the bridge collapsed.

President Biden joins Governor Moore and local officials to speak near the bridge

Biden visited the site on April 5; he surveyed the wreckage from Marine One and was later briefed by officials from the local government, the Coast Guard and USACE. He pledged the support of the federal government for a bridge replacement and the recovery effort "every step of the way", adding that "the nation has your back". He also met with families of the victims. On April 11, Moore announced that the state government had launched a website with information about federal, state, and local government programs related to the bridge collapse.

The Mexican embassy in the U.S. is providing consular assistance to the families, with a dedicated phone line for affected Mexican nationals. Mexican president Andrés Manuel López Obrador said the disaster highlighted the contribution of migrants to the US economy and "demonstrates that migrants go out and do risky jobs at midnight". Rafael Laveaga Rendón, head of the consular section, travelled to Baltimore to help the workers’ families. It has been confirmed that one of the rescued was from Michoacán, while the two Mexican nationals who are still missing are from Michoacán and Veracruz.

Replacement bridge

In an address on March 26, Biden said that he would ask Congress to fund a replacement bridge. On March 28, the federal government released an initial $60 million in emergency aid under the Emergency Relief (ER) Program of the Federal Highway Administration (FHWA) that is subsidized by the Highway Trust Fund. Buttigieg also urged Congress to provide funding for a replacement bridge. Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell said that it was the federal government's responsibility to absorb the costs.

On April 5, the House Freedom Caucus issued a statement listing demands for their support of funding for a replacement bridge, including that the federal government seek maximum liability from the shipping companies upfront. Ben Cardin, U.S. senator from Maryland, vowed to hold those responsible for the bridge collapse accountable, but argued against waiting for related litigation to be resolved and insurance claims to be approved, saying "We're not going to delay opening our channel or rebuilding our bridge with the lengthy process that may take", with which Buttigieg agreed. On April 8, Moore said he would talk with members of Congress the following week about funding a replacement bridge. At an April 10 hearing of the Senate Commerce Committee, ranking member Ted Cruz of Texas said the federal government "needs to help rebuild the bridge," but also argued that legal protections to protect taxpayers from the costs of litigation should be implemented and expressed concern about potential bureaucratic delays.

While some engineering professors suggested that replacing the bridge could take as long as 10 years and cost at least $350 million, a report issued by the Congressional Research Service (CRS) noted that replacement bridges can qualify for a Categorical Exclusion (CE) under the National Environmental Policy Act to accelerate regulatory review and project delivery. The report also noted that the I-35W Saint Anthony Falls Bridge that replaced the I-35W Mississippi River bridge was completed in 11 months with the help of a CE, while repairs to the Sunshine Skyway Bridge took five years to complete.

The CRS report notes that a replacement bridge project could be eligible to receive up to 80% of its funding from the FHWA ER Program since the bridge was a state highway, 90% if the expenses cause the state government to exceed its federal-aid highway program funds for the fiscal year, or 100% of the project cost if Congress makes an exception for the project from the ER Program rules (which Congress did for the I-35W Saint Anthony Falls Bridge), while any state funds received from an approved insurance claim would offset funding awarded from the ER Program. However, the ER Program has a $2.1 billion backlog of emergency relief reimbursements to states and only $890 million on hand. Other transportation-policy scholars have suggested that a replacement bridge could qualify for funding under the Bridge Investment Program created under the Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act.

On April 9, the Maryland congressional delegation announced that they would introduce a bill to make an exception to the ER Program rules for a replacement bridge. On April 11, Cardin and Maryland senator Chris Van Hollen introduced a bill in the Senate (S. 4114; referred to the Senate Environment and Public Works Committee), while Maryland representatives Kweisi Mfume, Steny Hoyer, Dutch Ruppersberger, John Sarbanes, Andy Harris, Jamie Raskin, David Trone, and Glenn Ivey introduced a bill in the House (H.R. 7961; referred to the House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee).

Bridge safety regulation

On March 27, Buttigieg said that the U.S. Department of Transportation would apply the findings of the NTSB investigation of the bridge collapse to "regulation, inspection, design or funding of bridges in the future". He noted that the bridge was not designed to withstand the impact of a vessel of Dali's weight (about 95,000 tonnes empty). In 2022, the FHWA finalized new data specifications for state inspectors to use for bridge pier protections that are scheduled to take effect in 2026.

According to a Wall Street Journal analysis of the National Bridge Inventory, there are eight U.S. bridges that are fracture critical (a condition flagged by the NTSB in its investigation) and have similar vertical clearance as the Francis Scott Key Bridge: the Tacoma Narrows Bridge, the Lewis and Clark Bridge over the Columbia River, the St. Johns Bridge, the San Francisco–Oakland Bay Bridge, the Golden Gate Bridge, the George Washington Bridge, the Verrazzano-Narrows Bridge, and the Chesapeake Bay Bridge.

When reporters asked about a proposal to require tugboats to pilot vessels around critical maritime infrastructure, officials with the Coast Guard, the Department of Transportation, the Cybersecurity and Infrastructure Security Agency, and the U.S. Department of Homeland Security Joint Information Center either referred the inquiries to different agencies or said their agencies lacked jurisdiction to create such a regulation. By April 11, the Maryland Port Administration had begun consulting tugboat operators about potential modifications to protocol, which would depend upon recommendations from the NTSB and the Coast Guard.

See also


This page was last updated at 2024-04-21 09:07 UTC. Update now. View original page.

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