Maryland Transportation Secretary pledges to rebuild ‘bridge that meets current standards’

Thursday’s meeting of the Maryland Transportation Authority opened with a recognition of the six construction workers who were killed on the Francis Scott Key Bridge when it collapsed last week.

Maryland Transportation Secretary Paul Wiedefeld told the board members present, “Tuesday, March 26, will forever be marked in our hearts and minds as a tragic course of events on so many levels.”

Referring to the families of those who lost their lives, Wiedefeld said, “It’s hard to fathom how they are grieving and processing such tremendous loss.”

He then asked for a moment of silence.

During the course of the meeting, there was an update on the recovery and rebuilding plans.

Lt. Colonel Corey McKenzie with the MDTA Police said along with keeping two vessels in the water around the clock to support efforts to clear debris, “Certainly, we continue to mourn the loss of the six lives [of the construction workers], and our number one priority remains to do whatever we can to help recover the four remaining victims that have been lost.”

MDTA board member Cynthia Penny-Ardinger said the collapse of the bridge and the lives lost were “an unimaginable loss” and asked, “Have we given any thought as to what it’s going to take to build the new bridge?”

Wiedefeld said there’s been an effort to expedite the process of designing and building a new bridge, and said there are a number of issues, including funding issues that have to be addressed.

“What we will do, though, is rebuild a bridge that meets current standards,” Wiedefeld noted, adding that the Key Bridge was nearly 50 years old.

The National Transportation Safety Board has reported the Key Bridge was among more than 17,000 “fracture-critical” bridges in the United States. NTSB Chair Jennifer Homendy said last week that investigators will request and review the inspection reports for the Key Bridge going back 10 years.

Chief engineer for the MDTA James Harkness told the board the state has received an initial $60 million in emergency relief funding from the Biden Administration.

Harkness said MDTA has started initial efforts to look at how it can move forward with the design and construction of a new bridge.

He said they hoped to move as quickly as possible.

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Kate Ryan

As a member of the award-winning WTOP News, Kate is focused on state and local government. Her focus has always been on how decisions made in a council chamber or state house affect your house. She's also covered breaking news, education and more.

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