Maryland Senator Presses for Baltimore Aid

Cardin Expresses Urgency to Rebuild Collapsed Bridge
Area of collapsed bridge in Baltimore
Work continues to remove the wreckage of the collapsed Francis Scott Key Bridge near the Port of Baltimore on May 20. (Matt Rourke/Associated Press)

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WASHINGTON — Citing supply chain concerns, a senior senator from Maryland renewed calls for colleagues to endorse emergency aid for rebuilding the Port of Baltimore area that was hindered by the collapse of the Francis Scott Key Bridge.

The potential for long-term economic impacts grows the longer Congress waits to approve direct assistance for the region’s freight corridors, explained Sen. Ben Cardin (D) during an Environment and Public Works hearing June 5.

“The bridge handled 34,000 vehicles a day. As a result of it being closed, we’ve seen an 18% increase in the tunnel traffic, which has added to the delays of going through the two tunnels that go through the harbor,” said the senator, who notably is chairman of the Foreign Relations Committee.

“For those that have hazardous material, those truckers have to travel an additional 25 miles. A heavy cost to commerce and our community. So there’s an urgency in getting the bridge replaced,” added Cardin, emphasizing supply chain disruptions would persist absent significant funding for rebuilding the bridge.

Sen. Ben Cardin


Cardin and the other members of Maryland’s congressional delegation recently proposed legislation seeking to access federal funds for rebuilding and rehabilitating infrastructure at the Port of Baltimore. The bipartisan Baltimore BRIDGE Relief Act has yet to be scheduled for consideration in the House and Senate.

EPW’s leadership acknowledged the sense of urgency. “The collapse of Baltimore’s Francis Scott Key Bridge on March 26 was a terrible tragedy. As we know, six people lost their lives, and thousands more have had their daily lives upended by the loss of a critical highway link across the Baltimore Harbor,” Chairman Tom Carper (D-Del.) said during the hearing. “President [Joe] Biden has committed to helping the people of Baltimore rebuild the bridge, and the Federal Highway Administration already has been — and will continue to be — a key leader in the recovery efforts.”

RELATED: Baltimore-Area Truckers Struggle to Find Loads

Tom Carper


“As the recovery efforts continue,” Carper continued, “I hope that the Federal Highway Administration will continue to work closely with Congress and the other relevant federal agencies, as well as state and local leaders, to rebuild the bridge. This is a shared responsibility.”

In response to the collapse, the Federal Highway Administration provided Maryland with $60 million in emergency aid. Administrator Shailen Bhatt updated senators on the situation in the Charm City. “The response to this disaster has highlighted the ability of industry and government entities to work together in times of calamity as they have done since the bridge collapse. It truly has been a whole-of-government response.”

Shailen Bhatt


“While FHWA’s focus now is supporting Maryland as much as possible as they work to reconstruct the bridge,” Bhatt added, “we must not lose sight of the devastating impact this tragedy has had on the victims and their families. We will always mourn the six individuals who lost their lives while working to strengthen our transportation system.”

Reacting to the Army Corps of Engineers’ announcement that the port’s main channel will be fully open by June 10, Bhatt told reporters after the hearing: “We’re glad that the port is going to be fully reopened. That creates additional traffic where those goods now have to come, say, from New Jersey or other places. And so, yeah, there’s absolutely an understanding now of just how important that port is — how important the transportation network is. And that’s why I recommend, again, the bridge [be] built as quickly as possible.”

After the collapse, the U.S. Department of Transportation hosted meetings with stakeholders, including the trucking industry. The Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration indicated the port remains open for truck transactions. The National Transportation Safety Board is investigating the circumstances that led a containership to slam into the bridge March 26.

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