Army Corps of Engineers Aims to Restore Normal Access to Port of Baltimore by End of May

April 5, 2024
The container ship Dali is seen in the wreckage of Francis Scott Key Bridge almost a week after it hit a structural pier, causing a subsequent bridge collapse.

The Army Corps of Engineers has a tentative timeline of restoring access to the Port of Baltimore to “normal capacity” by the end of May, it said in a statement Thursday night.

“Engineers are aiming to reopen the permanent, 700-foot-wide by 50-foot-deep federal navigation channel by the end of May, restoring port access to normal capacity,” according to the news release.

Also, the Corps said engineers plan to open a channel 280 feet wide and 35 feet deep by the end of April to allow barge container service and some vessels that move automobiles and farm equipment to pass the wreckage of the Francis Scott Key Bridge, which collapsed March 26 when it was struck by a container ship.

“These are ambitious timelines that may still be impacted by significant adverse weather conditions or changes in the complexity of the wreckage,” Army Corps of Engineers Lt. Gen. Scott A. Spellmon said in a news release. Spellmon is the corps’ commanding general.

Rain and lightning in the Baltimore area this week prevented crews from operating cranes to lift shipping containers and parts of the bridge onto barges, the Key Bridge Response Unified Command said.

The news came on the eve of Democratic President Joe Biden’s visit Friday to inspect the massive salvage effort to help the port recover from the bridge collapse.

Until Thursday night, officials had declined to specify a timeline for restoring normal access to the port.

“This evening’s announcement by the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers that they’ve outlined a tentative timeline sends a strong message to the City of Baltimore and our entire country,” Mayor Brandon Scott said in a statement. “Some of the best engineering minds in the world and our most important resources have been made available for this critically important project.”

The container ship struck one of the bridge’s support piers, sending the spans plunging into the Patapsco River and blocking the channel. Six men who were working on the bridge repairing potholes are presumed dead. Divers have recovered two of their bodies from the area, which is clogged by the damaged ship and the wreckage of the bridge.

“This ambitious timeline proposed by the Army Corps of Engineers offers a level of clarity and certainty that Baltimore needs to hear so we can collectively plan for continued recovery efforts — related to both our economy and our infrastructure,” Gov. Wes Moore, a Democrat, said in a statement. “Now we have a target. We must do everything we can to meet that target.”

Temporary 11- and 14-feet-deep channels that pass under remaining parts of the Key Bridge were opened this week to allow a handful of smaller barges and tugboats out of the port.

“I’m grateful to have a timeline that will help guide our recovery and response at the local level,” Baltimore County Executive Johnny Olszewski Jr., a Democrat, said in a statement. “I am confident that they have the best people and resources at their disposal to meet this timeline.”

Seven commercial ships and four military ships that support the overseas deployment of U.S. military forces have been stuck in the port since the 984-foot container ship Dali collided with the bridge.

Spellmon credited “the exhaustive work” of the Key Bridge Response Unified Command — which is led by the Corps, the Coast Guard, the Maryland Department of the Environment, the Maryland Transportation Authority and the Maryland State Police — in making progress toward the ultimate goal.

“Thanks to the exhaustive work of the Unified Command during the last two weeks, including underwater surveys and detailed structural analysis of the wreckage, we’ve developed a better understanding of the immense and complex work that lies ahead,” Spellmon said in the statement. “A fully opened federal channel remains our primary goal.”

© 2024 Baltimore Sun.


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