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As Baltimore shipping channel reopens, DOT estimates at least $1.7 billion to rebuild bridge

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(BALTIMORE) — The Port of Baltimore’s federal channel was safely reopened to its original dimensions of 700 feet wide by 500 feet deep without any major injuries, The White House said.

Work continues to remove debris outside of the McHenry Federal Channel, and a safety zone will be maintained to protect workers. Deep draft vessels will be required to have a single escort tug until the work is complete.

The preliminary costs to rebuild the bridge as quoted by the Department of Transportation are between $1.7 billion and $1.9 billion, officials said.

A 984-foot-long cargo ship, the Dali, struck the Key Bridge on March 26, triggering a collapse that killed six workers and affected entry into the port. The ship was refloated and moved from the crash site on May 20.

Around 50,000 tons of steel were cleared, equivalent to 3,800 fully loaded dump trucks, according to Maj. Gen. Butch Graham of the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers.

Graham credited crane operators, divers, mariners and salvage workers for their efforts, stating they have been working below, underneath and on the Patapsco River since March 30.

According to Secretary of Transportation Pete Buttigieg, traffic redirected to other ports earlier should now be able to pass through.

“Our belief and expectation is that all of those disruptions and adaptations, as important as they were, were temporary and that traffic that would have been going to Baltimore the day before this happened, belongs in Baltimore today,” the secretary said.

He added, “We have every indication that that is what is taking place, but we’ll be reinforcing that expectation as we speak with players up and down the supply chains, including a conversation that we plan to have later this week.”

Buttigieg said the port opening’s major impact would be on local workers, especially the International Longshoremen’s Association workers, as they were not working with ships not arriving at the Port of Baltimore.

“We felt enormous urgency about making sure that we did everything we could to get back to normal there,” he said. “And now those workers can count on that business returning. It’s been a gradual process, and some of them have been working for some time. Now we can say that it is fully back to normal.”

Buttigieg reiterated President Joe Biden’s intention to secure federal funding for rebuilding the bridge and added that the Maryland delegation is leading a process in Congress to make that happen.

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