Key Bridge collapse: Baltimore shipping channel fully reopens after cleanup


BALTIMORE — Federal and Maryland state authorities fully reopened the main shipping channel to the Port of Baltimore on Monday, 11 weeks after a container ship caused the collapse of the Francis Scott Key Bridge, killing six workers.

Authorities restored the federal channel to its original 700-foot width and 50-foot depth, The Washington Post reported. Officials with the Unified Command announced the full reopening in a news release on Monday evening. It comes after a massive cleanup effort as crews removed an estimated 50,000 tons of steel and concrete from the Patapsco River after the ship struck the bridge on March 26, according to The Associated Press.

The reopened channel will allow two-way traffic for large vessels, WJZ-TV reported.

“Yet again, Baltimore was counted down and out,” Mayor Brandon Scott told the Post in an interview. “And yet again, Baltimore proved the world wrong.”

“We are proud of the unified efforts that fully reopened the federal channel to port operations,” Lt. Gen. Scott Spellmon, commanding general of the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, said in a statement released Monday evening, according to WBAL-TV. “The partnerships that endured through this response made this pivotal mission successful.”

The Port of Baltimore is a key automobile hub for the U.S. In 2023, it recorded its 13th straight year as the top U.S. port for vehicles, with more than 847,000 handled, according to Maryland officials. It was the top port for automobiles, light trucks, farm and construction machinery, imported sugar and imported gypsum, officials said.

Disruptions from the collapse have cost the Baltimore region’s economy about $1.2 billion, Anirban Basu, an economist with the Sage Policy Group Inc., a Baltimore-based consulting firm, told the Post.

On May 13, a controlled demolition of the largest remaining span of the bridge was conducted in the river.

Explosives were detonated to break down part of the span, which collapsed during the early hours of March 26 when a cargo ship struck one of the bridge supports. A portion of the bridge was on the deck of the Dali, which lost control and hit a bridge support.

Crews began removing bridge wreckage on March 30, the Post reported.

After the removal of wreckage at the 50-foot mudline, Unified Command performed a survey of the federal channel on Monday and certified that the riverbed was safe for boat transit, WBAL reported.

Officials said that 56 federal, state and local agencies participated in the salvage operations, according to the AP.

“I cannot overstate how proud I am of our team,” Col. Estee Pinchasin, Baltimore district commander for the Army Corps of Engineers, said in a statement. “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.”

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