Biden Surveys Collapsed Baltimore Bridge, Urges Congress to Act

BALTIMORE—President Joe Biden on Friday made his first visit to the collapsed Francis Scott Key Bridge in Baltimore, Maryland, and urged Congress to provide immediate federal assistance to rebuild the bridge and reopen the harbor.

“I’m here to say: Your nation has your back,” President Biden told the people of Maryland as he stood in front of the collapsed bridge, which was destroyed on March 26 after a cargo ship slammed into one of its support columns, killing six construction workers.

President Biden stated that he fully expects the federal government to shoulder the entire cost of reconstructing the bridge.

“I call on Congress to authorize this effort as soon as possible,” he added.

The president took an aerial tour of the wreckage of the collapsed bridge. He later received an operational update on response efforts to reopen the Port of Baltimore.

“My administration is committed—absolutely committed—to ensuring that the parties responsible for this tragedy pay to repair the damage and be held accountable to the fullest extent the law will allow,” President Biden said during his speech. “But I also want to be clear: We will support Maryland and Baltimore every step of the way to help you rebuild and maintain all of the businesses and commerce that are here now.”

During his visit, President Biden also met with the families of the six construction workers who lost their lives.

“I’ve come here to grieve with you,” he said to the families during his speech.

The president was joined by several federal, state, and local officials, including Sens. Ben Cardin and Chris Van Hollen, Baltimore Mayor Brandon Scott, and Transportation Secretary Pete Buttigieg.

During his speech, President Biden also shared his connection with Baltimore, recounting commutes he would take through the area from Delaware to Washington and sharing that his father was raised in Baltimore.

The president’s visit comes more than a week after the accident occurred. The administration has so far provided $60 million in emergency funding for recovery efforts.

During his speech, President Biden announced that Sparrows Point, the only area of the port unaffected by the bridge, would receive $8 million in federal grants for infrastructure upgrades to accommodate more ships.

He also announced an initial award of $3.5 million in emergency dislocated worker grant funding to the state of Maryland to support cleanup and recovery activities. In addition, the Small Business Administration (SBA) issued a disaster declaration to offer low-interest loans to small businesses.

He encouraged all businesses to stay in the area and not lay off employees.

“Folks, we all need to step up. Amazon, Home Depot, Domino Sugar, and many other companies all rely on this port. And they have committed to keeping workers and their businesses in Baltimore,” President Biden said.

“I’m calling on every company at and around the port to do the same exact thing: commit to stay.”

President Biden said two channels have been opened so far, allowing some vessels to bypass wreckage at the site.

He stated that by the end of April, the third channel would be open for certain commercial traffic, including automobile carriers. By the end of May, the channel will be fully open.

NTD Photo
President Joe Biden (C) speaks about the restoration of the Francis Scott Key Bridge at the Maryland Transportation Authority Police headquarters in Baltimore on April 5, 2024. (Madalina Vasiliu/The Epoch Times)

During a briefing to the president, Brig. Gen. John Lloyd of the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers said that in order to remove the wrecked ship, they would have to remove a piece of bridge sitting on it weighing 5,000 tons and standing 125 feet high, and he said they are trying to cut the piece off. Under the water, he described the scene as a “mangled mess” and said he had 51 divers and 12 cranes on site.

Funding the Bridge

Shalanda Young, director of the Office of Management and Budget, urged Congress in a letter dated April 5 to authorize a 100 percent federal cost share for rebuilding the bridge and eliminating any requirement for a state cost share.

“This authorization would be consistent with past catastrophic bridge collapses, including in 2007 when the Congress acted in a bipartisan manner within days of the I-35W bridge collapse in Minnesota,” the letter stated.

Congressional leaders have so far kept quiet about how they intend to fund the project, which may require billions of dollars, according to estimates.

Several members of Congress raised concerns about spending taxpayer money and asserted that insurance companies should bear full responsibility.

“My expectation would be that ultimately there will be insurance payments, in part, to cover this. But we don’t want to allow worrying about where the financing will come from to hold up reconstruction,” Treasury Secretary Janet Yellen told MSNBC on March 27.

Meanwhile, the House Freedom Caucus has issued a set of conditions for considering funding to reconstruct the bridge in Baltimore.

In a statement released by the conservative group on April 5, the group said that funding for the bridge must be contingent on the Biden administration reversing its pause on the approval of exports of liquified natural gas.

The group also demanded that the administration first “seek maximum liability from the foreign shipping companies upfront” and waive “burdensome regulations” to prevent “delays and costs” in bridge construction.

From The Epoch Times

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