A temporary channel to open next to Key Bridge for commercial boats, Baltimore port leader says

A crane stands by at Tradepoint Atlantic terminal near the wreckage of the Francis Scott Key Bridge, Saturday, March 30, 2024, in Baltimore. (AP Photo/Julia Nikhinson)(AP/Julia Nikhinson)

The captain of the Port of Baltimore says it is working to open a temporary alternate channel for commercially essential vessels near the northeast side of the collapsed Francis Scott Key Bridge.

In an updated statement Sunday evening from the Key Bridge Response team and Baltimore Mayor Brandon Scott, officials said the temporary channel marks the continued phased approach to opening the main channel after the bridge was struck, collapsing and killing six construction workers.

Since the main channel has been blocked since the collapse, vessel traffic to and from all of the port’s terminals has stopped. Crews have begun the complicated work of removing steel and concrete at the site. On Sunday, dive teams surveyed parts of the bridge and checked the ship, and workers in lifts used torches to cut above-water parts of the twisted steel superstructure.

The temporary channel would include government-lighted buoys to navigation, officials said in a statement. It will also have “a controlling depth of 11 feet, a 264-foot horizontal clearance and vertical clearance 96 feet.”

“This will mark an important first step along the road to reopening the port of Baltimore. By opening this alternate route, we will support the flow of marine traffic into Baltimore,” Capt. David O’Connell said.

As of Sunday evening, a 2,000-yard safety zone around the Key Bridge wreckage remains in effect “to protect personnel, vessels and the marine environment.” No boats are allowed to enter the safety zone without permission.

Statements did not explicitly state when the temporary channel would be operational.

Along with clearing the shipping channel to reopen the port, officials are trying to determine how to rebuild the major bridge, which was completed in 1977 and carried Interstate 695 around southeast Baltimore and was central to the city’s centuries of maritime culture.

Anyone in the public who encounters debris from the Key Bridge collapse is encouraged to call the Debris Reporting Hotline at (410) 205-6625.

The Associated Press also contributed to this report. 

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Ivy Lyons

Ivy Lyons is a digital journalist for WTOP.com. Since 2018, they have worked on Capitol Hill, at NBC News in Washington, and with WJLA in Washington.

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