Francis Scott Key Bridge collapse: Shipping channel expected to be partially open by end of April

BALTIMORE — The Port of Baltimore is expected to partially reopen to vessels by the end of April, with a full reopening anticipated by the end of May, the U.S. Corps of Engineers announced on Thursday.

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The shipping channel has been blocked by wreckage left after the Francis Scott Key Bridge fell into the Patapsco River last week. Officials have called reopening the channel key to ongoing recovery efforts.

“Thanks to the exhaustive work of the Unified Command during the last two weeks, including underwater surveys and detailed structural analysis of the wreckage, we’ve developed a better understanding of the immense and complex work that lies ahead,” Lt. Gen. Scott A. Spellmon, USACE commanding general, said in a statement.

“A fully opened federal channel remains our primary goal, and we will carry out this work with care and precision, with safety as our chief priority.”

The limited access channel to be opened by the end of the month will be 280 feet wide and 35 feet deep, officials said. It would allow barge container vessels and some roll-on/roll-off vessels that transport automobile and farm equipment to access the port.

The Port of Baltimore is the nation’s top port for vehicles. It saw more than 847,000 vehicles in 2023, according to Maryland officials.

The timeline announcement came ahead of President Joe Biden’s visit to Baltimore on Friday. Earlier this week, officials announced the opening of two temporary channels aimed at giving vessels related to response efforts access to the area.

Spellmon called the timeline set forth by officials “ambitious” and warned that it could still change due to weather conditions or a change in the complexity of the wreckage.

“We are working quickly and safely to clear the channel and restore full service at this port that is so vital to the nation,” he said. “At the same time, we continue to keep faith with the families of the missing and are working with our partners to locate and recover their loved ones.”

Eight people working to fix potholes on the bridge fell into the water when the bridge collapsed last week. Two people survived, and two bodies have since been pulled from the river.

Efforts to search for the other four people believed to have died in the collapse have been paused as officials work to clear the tons of metal left in the river.

Divers have been surveying the damage to help direct workers cutting what remains of the bridge and hauling it out of the water.

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