Biden Tour to Baltimore bridge, promises port's re-opening to come ‘soon’

President Joe Biden pledged federal support over $8m in grant funds to make the infrastructure improvements at Sparrows Point, as the only part of the port unaffected by the Baltimore bridge collapse, which will allow Sparrows Point to take on more ships.

Biden has said he plans for the federal government to fully pay for the bridge’s reconstruction. Last Friday in his remarks on rebuilding the Francis Scott Key bridge and reopening the port of Baltimore, the President repeated his commitment “that the Federal government should cover any needed costs for reconstructing the bridge.”

“The damage is devastating,” Biden said, but he promised the port’s customers that “we’re coming back, and we’re coming back soon.”

“Your nation has your back,” Biden says in Baltimore remarks

Last week the president received an aerial tour to survey the wreckage. “You know, from the air, I saw the bridge that’s been ripped apart. But here on the ground, I see a community that’s been pulled together,” Biden commented, adding that “Your nation has your back, and I mean it.”

Big companies like Mazda, Mercedes-Benz, Subaru, and Mitsubishi Motors, as well as Amazon, which rely on the port have committed to take steps to try to return key cargo operations to the Port of Baltimore once it reopens, Biden said.

Major local employers, including UPS, Amazon, Domino Sugar, Home Depot, Mercedes-Benz, Subaru, and Floor & Decor, are committing to retain their workers, amounting to thousands of jobs, in their Port of Baltimore facilities.

Biden says he hopes “full channel” into Baltimore port will reopen in May

Meanwhile, the Army Corps announced that by the end of April they will be able to open the third channel for some commercial traffic, including car carriers. “And by the end of May, we’ll open the full channel – the full channel,” the President noted.

After detailed studies and engineering assessments, the USACE announced last week that they tentatively expect to open a limited access channel for barge container service and some vessels that move automobiles and farm equipment by the end of April and to restore the port to normal capacity by the end of May.

Biden gives Operational Update

Meanwhile, salvage crews successfully cut and removed the first pieces of steel wreckage from outside the federal channel on Saturday, March 30, an extremely difficult and delicate operation.

The Unified Command has a fleet of six heavy lift crane barges to conduct wreckage removal within the federal channel, including the Chesapeake 1000, the largest crane barge on the East Coast which is nearly 200 feet long and can lift 1,000 tons. This will be a critical asset in clearing large wreckage from across the bow of the stranded MV Dali.

Recently the Unified Command was able to open two small alternate channels for essential vessels supporting wreckage removal to better access the area, marking the first time vessels have been able to cross the harbor since the bridge collapse.

On Friday, the White House said that the port’s collective bargaining parties will make lump-sum payments to over 1,200 longshore workers valued at between 1 and 4 weeks of salary.

This scheduled payment represents vacation pay earned under the collective bargaining agreement during the previous six months.

“Ports America Chesapeake, one of the largest employers at the Port of Baltimore, has committed to provide temporary work to hundreds of longshoremen who would otherwise go without hours or pay with no new shipments through the port,” Biden said Friday.