June 24, 2024 9:40 am

Biden vows to rebuild collapsed Baltimore bridge ‘rapidly’

US President Joe Biden vowed to “move heaven and earth” to help Baltimore recover from a deadly bridge collapse that blocked the city’s port.

He added the government will “help you rebuild and maintain all the business and commerce that’s here now”.

Along with killing six workers, the collapse trapped a massive ship in one of the busiest ports on the East Coast, used by companies such as Amazon.

So far, $60m (£47.4m) has been earmarked for the clean-up effort.

The final cost of clearing the waterway and rebuilding the bridge is likely to be far higher, with some lawmakers estimating it could rise to hundreds of millions of dollars. One, Maryland Democrat David Trone, told CBS, the BBC’s US partner, that he believes the cost could be as high as $1bn.

On Friday, Mr Biden re-iterated a previous commitment to help Baltimore fund the recovery process and rebuilding effort.

“I fully intend…that the federal government [will] cover the cost of building this entire bridge. All of it,” he said, calling on Congress to authorize funding “as soon as possible”.

During his visit, Mr Biden, who has family ties to the city, took an aerial tour of the collapsed area alongside Maryland Governor Wes Moore and other senior officials involved in the salvage effort, before meeting with emergency personnel.

Speaking in the Baltimore suburb of Dundalk – with the cargo ship, the Dali, and the ruined bridge clearly visible – Mr Biden said the federal government will “move heaven and earth” to rebuild the bridge “as rapidly as humanly possible”.

He added that the reconstruction effort will be done with “union labour and American steel.”

The port is a vital economic hub that is linked to more than 15,000 jobs.

“Folks, we all need to step up,” he added, “Amazon, Home Depot…and other companies all rely on this port, and they have committed to keep workers on payrolls.”

In his remarks, Mr Biden also directed a message to the families of the “working, strong, selfless” men who died in the accident, with whom he was also scheduled to meet during his visit. All six were immigrants from Mexico and Central America.

“Never forget the contributions these men made to this city,” he said. “We’re going to keep working hard to recover each of them.”

In a 5 April letter to senior members of House and Senate committees focused on infrastructure, transportation, public works and the environment, Office of Management and Budget Director Shalonda Young wrote that the administration would pursue “all avenues to recover the costs of past, current and future work”.

In the wake of the crash, the “unified command” responsible for the response opened two smaller temporary shipping channels in the area to allow limited maritime traffic to pass through.

By the end of April, officials hope to open a limited access channel 280ft (80m) wide and 35ft (10m) deep to allow one-way traffic for barge containers and some other vessels that carry cars and equipment.

The entire, permanent channel is expected to be clear and ready for use by the end of May, the unified command said in a statement earlier this week.

That timeline, however, may change due to weather and unexpected complications with the salvage effort.

“This is going to take time,” Mr Biden said.

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