Baltimore shipping channel fully reopened after bridge disaster

The shipping lane into the Port of Baltimore fully reopened Monday evening, allowing full capacity cargo traffic into the port for the first time since the Francis Scott Key Bridge was struck and collapsed in March.

The bridge was struck in a key central support pylon by a large cargo ship, sending the entire structure into the Patapsco River and killing six roadway workers. The Army Corps of Engineers and other recovery teams have worked for months since removing an estimated 50,000 tons of debris from the water so crucial trade can fully resume.

“Yet again, Baltimore was counted down and out,” Baltimore Mayor Brandon Scott (D) told The Washington Post. “And yet again, Baltimore proved the world wrong.”

Workers moved quickly to partially reopen the channel, getting smaller ships in and out of the port just days after the bridge disaster via newly dug shallow channels. The full recovery also came faster than expected, in about three months instead of the anticipated six.

Officials said a total of 56 federal, state and local agencies participated in the salvage operations, including about 500 specialists from around the world who operated a fleet of 18 barges, 22 tugboats, 13 floating cranes, 10 excavators and four survey boats.

“I cannot overstate how proud I am of our team,” said Col. Estee Pinchasin, Baltimore district commander for the Army Corps of Engineers. “It was incredible seeing so many people from different parts of our government, from around our country and all over the world, come together in the Unified Command and accomplish so much in this amount of time.”

The Port of Baltimore was the East Coast’s busiest for automobile shipments before the bridge collapse, as well a crucial coal and farm equipment terminal. With the wreckage removed and the ship that downed the bridge floated to port, effectively no evidence of the disaster remains except for the lack of bridge deck itself.

The bridge collapse was met with broad support for federal and state assistance. President Biden has committed federal funds to rebuilding the bridge, which carries Interstate 495 around the city. Maryland highway officials hope to have the new span open by 2028.

The Associated Press contributed.

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