Port of Baltimore shipping channel could fully reopen this weekend after the last piece of collapsed bridge is removed

Bobby Petty/DVIDS via CNN Newsource

BALTIMORE, Md. -- The Port of Baltimore channel could fully reopen this weekend after nearly 11 weeks of painstaking operations to remove colossal pieces of the collapsed Francis Scott Key Bridge that had been blocking much of the crucial shipping artery.

The entire 700-foot wide channel is expected to reopen between Saturday and Monday – a milestone made possible now that the last piece of steel bridge blocking the channel has been removed, according to Unified Command, a group of agencies that responded to the disaster on March 26, after a 213-million pound cargo ship lost power and crashed into one of the bridge’s support columns. Six construction workers were killed.

Clearing the final piece of bridge truss – a structure of interconnected concrete, cables and steel rebar – was completed earlier this week using concrete breakers, torches and underwater surveys, Unified Command said.

Though crews were able to clear a limited, 400-foot avenue for vessels to pass through last month, the complete reopening of the channel will usher a return to full operations at the port – an essential international cargo destination and employer of thousands of local workers.

The vessel remained stuck in the waterway for nearly two months as crews worked to remove a piece of the bridge pinning down its bow, finally hauling the ship away on May 20.

The removal of the ship allowed for the temporary 400-foot channel to be opened. And for the first time in two months, cruise ships set sail from the Port of Baltimore on May 27.

Multiple agencies have launched investigations to determine who might be responsible for the catastrophe, including the FBI, the US Coast Guard and the National Transportation Safety Board.

Meanwhile, Baltimore officials have been working with the federal government to revive the port’s economy, which had supported tens of thousands of jobs before the disaster.

“In 2023, the Port ranked first in the nation in handling automobiles, light trucks, farm and construction machinery, as well as imported sugar and gypsum,” the Maryland government’s website states.

President Joe Biden has vowed to help rebuild the bridge, but the exact cost remains unclear. The bridge alone could be worth more than $1.2 billion, a spokesperson for the Insurance Information Institute has estimated.

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