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Biden to visit Port of Baltimore Friday to review federal response on Key Bridge


President Biden will tour the Port of Baltimore and the site of the Francis Scott Key Bridge collapse Friday as long-term efforts to reopen the port continue, White House press secretary Karine Jean-Pierre said Monday.

“President Biden will travel to Baltimore on Friday to visit the collapsed Francis Scott Key Bridge, meet with state and local officials and get [an] on-the-ground look at federal response efforts,” Jean-Pierre said.

The U.S. Coast Guard is leading a coordinated effort to clear debris blocking shipping traffic to the port, Jean-Pierre said.

Cranes and barges contracted by the U.S. Navy had arrived in recent days to assist in that effort, according to a statement from the Navy. Among the ships was the Chesapeake 1000, the largest heavy-lift crane on the East Coast with the capacity to lift 1,000 tons, Jean-Pierre said.

Two other barges with a combined capacity of 350 tons have also arrived in Baltimore Harbor, with a fourth, 400-ton capacity barge scheduled to arrive next week, the Navy said. The barges will be used to remove submerged portions of the collapsed bridge, the Navy said.

The shutdown of the port, which approached its second week Monday after a massive ship struck and toppled the bridge March 26, is a major issue for the local economy, U.S. Transportation Secretary Pete Buttigieg said last week. The port supports 8,000 direct jobs that pay roughly $2 million per day in wages, Buttigieg said.

Acting Labor Secretary Julie Su was in Baltimore Monday to meet with local stakeholders, as the department works with state and local officials “to determine how to assist workers out of work due to the closure of the port,” Jean-Pierre said.

Biden was leading a “whole-of-government approach to the collapse,” and working with Maryland Gov. Wes Moore (D), the city’s congressional delegation and local leaders, Jean-Pierre said.

The Biden administration will continue to talk with state and local leaders to understand the scope of the work needed to build a bridge to replace the Key Bridge and to reopen the busy Port of Baltimore to shipping traffic, she said.

No formal White House meetings with congressional leaders about the federal response had been scheduled Monday, but Jean-Pierre said White House staff was in regular contact with Congress and the Transportation Department.

U.S. Sen. Chris Van Hollen (D) said Saturday that he and Sen. Ben Cardin (D) along with U.S. Rep. Kweisi Mfume (D-7th) will introduce legislation in Congress to ensure that the bridge rebuild is fully paid for by the federal government.

Jean-Pierre said she couldn’t estimate a timeline for when the port would reopen, but stressed that the administration would “do everything we can” to reopen the port and construct a bridge.

“It is a complicated scenario, so I don’t have a timeline on that,” she said. “We’re going to have conversations with congressional members. We’re going to certainly talk to them on what else is needed … There is going to be additional funding needed to get this done.”

Jean-Pierre said the White House was communicating with the state to “get a sense of how much this is going to cost.”

Biden has said that the federal government would cover the costs of rebuilding the bridge.

At his daily news conference in Dundalk Monday, Moore said Unified Command, the coalition of government agencies working together on the response to the disaster, has removed a 200-ton piece of the bridge after a 10-hour operation, and was planning to remove a 350-ton piece later in the day.

“Unified Command said something that really struck me,” Moore said. They said: ‘This was a relatively small lift.’ We’re talking 200 tons. That’s almost as heavy as the Statue of Liberty. And it’s just a small little piece of what we’re talking about. The scale of this project is enormous. Even the small lifts are huge. But we’re moving forward.”

Moore said that since the federal Small Business Administration issued a disaster declaration after the bridge collapsed last week, the agency has received 57 applications for Economic Injury Disaster Loans from Maryland. Businesses affected by the disaster can apply for low-interest federal loans of up to $2 million.

Moore also said that he is creating an Intergovernmental Economic Response Team and is putting Lt. Gov. Aruna Miller (D) in charge of state efforts related to economic and financial recovery.

“She has been a full partner every step of the way,” he said. “And the people of Maryland are in good hands.”

Josh Kurtz contributed to this report. 

The post Biden to visit Port of Baltimore Friday to review federal response on Key Bridge appeared first on Maryland Matters.

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