1,100 Army Corps of Engineers Personnel to Help Clear Debris in Baltimore Bridge Collapse

Francis Scott Key Bridge in Baltimore recovery effort
U. S. Coast Guard Remotely Operated Vehicle and Underwater Port Security Program Manager Chuck Shipley and U.S. Army Corps of Engineers Baltimore District survey chief Brian Retz assist in recovery and debris removal following the March 26, 2024, collapse of the Francis Scott Key Bridge in Baltimore. (U.S. Army photo by David Adams)

The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers is deploying some 1,100 personnel to Baltimore, Maryland, following Tuesday's collapse of the Francis Scott Key Bridge into the Patapsco River, according to a press release from the service.

The collapse, caused by a cargo ship colliding with the bridge, killed six construction workers who had been filling potholes on the span. In addition to the human toll, the economic impact will likely be enormous and felt for years, reverberating across supply chains and the economy. The Port of Baltimore is key for importing cars and food products, as well as exporting coal.

Last year, the port saw nearly 850,000 car and truck imports, according to Maryland state data, marking it a top port for the auto industry. It's also the home to more than 15,000 jobs.

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"We're going to send all the federal resources they need as we respond to this emergency," President Joe Biden said Tuesday. "I mean all the federal resources -- we're going to rebuild that port together."

The Army Corps of Engineers is set to review the damage and remove and manage debris from the river, with the eventual goal of making it safe for ships to navigate again. The corps is using a 61-foot survey vessel, the Catlett, for topographic and hydrographic surveying.

Additional vessels from Philadelphia, the H.R. Spies and Dauntless, are on standby to support the effort, in addition to more personnel across the East Coast.

"Our thoughts are with those impacted by the tragic collapse of the Francis Scott Key Bridge," Col. Estee Pinchasin, the corps' Baltimore district commander, said in a statement. "Our emergency managers are closely monitoring the incident and coordinating with partner agencies for any potential support requests. We'll continue to support the U.S. Coast Guard and other state and local agencies as needed."

On Tuesday, Coast Guard units in Maryland and across the mid-Atlantic region responded to the collapse. The service worked with local, state and federal agencies in the search-and-rescue effort in the hours after the massive bridge fell into the water.

The Coast Guard said it would lead the accident investigation and pollution response.

In his public remarks Tuesday, Biden called the Francis Scott Key Bridge one of "the most important elements" holding up the economy in the Northeast. About 30,000 vehicles cross the bridge daily.

"I've directed my team to move heaven and earth to reopen the port and rebuild the bridge as soon as humanly possible," Biden said. "It's my intention that [the] federal government will pay for the entire cost of reconstructing that bridge, and I expect Congress to support my effort."

It's unclear what caused the 984-foot-long Singaporean container vessel Dali to slam into the bridge. Just before the impact, the crew warned authorities they had lost control of the ship, allowing police to stop additional traffic from crossing onto the bridge, limiting the loss of life.

The National Transportation Safety Board is investigating the incident and has secured the ship's data recorder, which could help establish the timeline of events leading to the incident. Crew members are also being interviewed.

"It will not be quick. It will not be inexpensive," Transportation Secretary Pete Buttigieg said at a press conference Tuesday. "But we will rebuild together. It's too soon to offer estimates on what it will take to clear the channel and reopen the port."

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