Loss of Baltimore’s Key Bridge leads to more traffic problems

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Maryland’s two U.S. senators urged fellow lawmakers on Wednesday to move more quickly to pass legislation for a new Key Bridge in Baltimore, while the state’s top transportation official said plans for a new span are moving forward.

While speaking at a hearing on the response to the collapse of the bridge after it was struck by a cargo ship, U.S. Sen. Ben Cardin, D-Md. said each day without the span results in more hardships.

Cardin said they range from broader economic issues to traffic problems affecting daily commuters.

“We’ve seen an 18% increase in the tunnel traffic, causing major delays through our tunnels,” Cardin said, testifying before the Senate Environment and Public Works Committee.

He noted that without the Key Bridge, downtown traffic in Baltimore has intensified, while trucks with hazardous materials have added costs because they have to drive dozens of miles around the Baltimore Beltway.

More Key Bridge News

Cardin and fellow Maryland U.S Sen. Chris Van Hollen said their bill to provide full funding for a new bridge should be attached to legislation soon, so it doesn’t languish in Congress.

“Every month it’s delayed is additional loss to our community,” Cardin said.

Design work to begin soon on new bridge

Maryland Transportation Secretary Paul Wiedefeld told lawmakers that the collapse of the bridge is a “national problem” that deserves swift federal attention.

He said a preliminary estimate to replace the bridge is $1.7 billion.

“We are moving expeditiously to rebuild the bridge,” he said.

Maryland is requesting that the federal government pay 100% of the cost of a new span.

Cardin pointed out that insurance, as well as legal action against the owner of the Dali cargo ship that struck the Key Bridge, could help lower taxpayer costs.

His comments came in response to issues raised by U.S. Sen. Shelley Moore Capito, R-W. V., related to minimizing the taxpayer burden.

Wiedefeld said the Maryland Transportation Authority, meanwhile, is moving ahead with reviewing proposals for development of a new bridge.

“We expect to have a project team selected by mid to late summer, with a projected project completion date of fall of 2028,” he said.

Praise for response to the collapse

Lawmakers and those who testified at the hearing all had general praise for the federal and state response to the bridge collapse, which claimed the lives of six workers who were on the bridge when it was rammed by the Dali.

Lt. Gen. Scott Spellmon, chief of engineers and commanding general of the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, recounted how his team and others were able to work together to clear more than 50,000 tons of steel and concrete wreckage.

“That’s equivalent to over 200 Statues of Liberty worth of material,” he said.

The Port of Baltimore was fully reopened last month, less than three months after the Dail struck the bridge, taking it down in a matter of seconds.

Parts of the bridge that still stand will be fully removed in the coming months, as planning moves ahead for its replacement.

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Mitchell Miller

Mitchell Miller has worked at WTOP since 1996, as a producer, editor, reporter and Senior News Director. After working "behind the scenes," coordinating coverage and reporter coverage for years, Mitchell moved back to his first love -- reporting. He is now WTOP's Capitol Hill reporter.

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