Biden to visit Port of Baltimore Friday to review federal response on Key Bridge

Crews are working to clear debris from the collapsed Francis Scott Key Bridge as efforts continue to reopen the Port of Baltimore. The bridge fell into the Patapsco River after being struck by the Dali, a cargo ship leaving the port at around 1:30 a.m. on Tuesday, March 26. The bodies of two men who were on the bridge at the time of the accident have been recovered from the water; four others are still missing and presumed dead; two others were rescued and treated for injuries shortly after the accident. (Baltimore District, U.S. Army Corps of Engineers/Facebook)

(States Newsroom) — President Joe Biden will tour the Port of Baltimore and the site of the Francis Scott Key Bridge collapse Friday as long-term efforts to reopen the port continue, White House press secretary Karine Jean-Pierre said Monday.

“President Biden will travel to Baltimore on Friday to visit the collapsed Francis Scott Key Bridge, meet with state and local officials and get (an) on-the-ground look at federal response efforts,” Jean-Pierre said.

The U.S. Coast Guard is leading a coordinated effort to clear debris blocking shipping traffic to the port, Jean-Pierre said.

Cranes and barges contracted by the U.S. Navy had arrived in recent days to assist in that effort, according to a statement from the Navy. Among the ships was the Chesapeake 1000, the largest heavy-lift crane on the East Coast with the capacity to lift 1,000 tons, Jean-Pierre said.

Two other barges with a combined capacity of 350 tons have also arrived in Baltimore Harbor, with a fourth, 400-ton capacity barge scheduled to arrive next week, the Navy said. The barges will be used to remove submerged portions of the collapsed bridge, the Navy said.

The shutdown of the port, which approached its second week Monday after a massive ship struck and toppled the bridge March 26, is a major issue for the local economy, U.S. Transportation Secretary Pete Buttigieg said last week. The port supports 8,000 direct jobs that pay roughly $2 million per day in wages, Buttigieg said.

Acting Labor Secretary Julie Su was in Baltimore Monday to meet with local stakeholders as the department works with state and local officials “to determine how to assist workers out of work due to the closure of the port,” Jean-Pierre said.

Biden was leading a “whole-of-government approach to the collapse,” and working with Maryland Gov. Wes Moore, the city’s congressional delegation and local leaders, Jean-Pierre said.

The Biden administration will continue to talk with state and local leaders to understand the scope of the work needed to build a bridge to replace the Key Bridge and to reopen the busy Port of Baltimore to shipping traffic, she said.

The collapsed span of bridge fell on top of the Dali cargo ship that struck the bridge on Tuesday, March 26, 2024. (Baltimore Fire Department/Facebook)

No formal White House meetings with congressional leaders about the federal response had been scheduled Monday, but Jean-Pierre said White House staff was in regular contact with Congress and the Transportation Department.

She said she couldn’t estimate a timeline for when the port would reopen, but stressed that the administration would “do everything we can” to reopen the port and construct a bridge.

“It is a complicated scenario, so I don’t have a timeline on that,” she said. “We’re going to have conversations with congressional members. We’re going to certainly talk to them on what else is needed … There is going to be additional funding needed to get this done.”

Jean-Pierre said the White House was communicating with the state to “get a sense of how much this is going to cost.”

Biden has said that the federal government would cover the costs of rebuilding the bridge.

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