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In Maryland appearance, Biden pledges federal support to rebuild collapsed bridge


In Maryland appearance, Biden pledges federal support to rebuild collapsed bridge

Apr 05, 2024 | 7:13 pm ET
By Jennifer Shutt
In Maryland appearance, Biden pledges federal support to rebuild collapsed bridge
U.S. President Joe Biden delivers remarks at the Maryland Transportation Authority Police Headquarters, near the site of the collapsed Francis Scott Key Bridge, on April 05, 2024 in Baltimore, Maryland. The bridge collapsed after being struck by the 984-foot cargo ship Dali at 1:30 AM on March 26. President Biden traveled to Baltimore for an aerial tour of the salvage operation of the bridge and to meet with families of the six victims who were working to repair potholes on the bridge when it collapsed. (Anna Moneymaker/Getty Images)

DUNDALK, Maryland — President Joe Biden traveled to Maryland on Friday to tour the collapsed Francis Scott Key Bridge by helicopter before meeting with the families of the construction workers who are presumed or confirmed dead after the collapse last week.

Biden said he understood the families’ pain of losing their loved ones, and pledged that the federal government would do everything in its power to quickly open the shipping lanes into the city’s port and rebuild the bridge.

“To all the families and loved ones who are grieving, I’ve come here to grieve with you,” Biden said during a press conference on the banks of the Patapsco River with the collapsed bridge in the background.

“It’s not the same, but I know a little bit about what it’s like to lose a piece of your soul — to get that phone call in the middle of night to say family members are gone,” Biden added. “I’ve been there. It’s a feeling like having a black hole in your chest, like you’re getting sucked in and unable to breathe. The anger, the pain, the depth of a loss that’s so profound.”

Six deaths have been confirmed or are presumed after the collapse. Two construction workers’ bodies have been recovered while four more remain missing.

The federal government, Biden said, would support Baltimore with the cleanup and rebuilding of the bridge as well as the workers who have had their jobs and livelihoods impacted by the bridge collapse.

“Folks, 20,000 jobs depend on this port,” Biden said. “Twenty thousand families depend on this port to buy groceries, to make rent, to pay their bills.”

The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers expects it will be able to open a “third channel for some commercial traffic, including car carriers” by the end of this month and open the full channel by the end of May, Biden said.

“We’re going to move heaven and earth to rebuild this bridge as rapidly as humanly possible,” Biden said. “And we’re going to do so with union labor and American steel.”

Maryland Gov. Wes Moore said the six victims of the collapse and their families are in people’s hearts, thoughts and prayers.

“Ten days ago, a piece of the Baltimore skyline and a piece of the Baltimore spirit plunged into the river,” Moore said. “But the people of Maryland, we rallied.”

Relief for workers

Moore said he signed an executive order Friday morning approving $60 million “in financial relief for workers and businesses that have been impacted by the Key Bridge collapse.”

The governor also announced the launch of a partnership between the public and private sectors, he called the “Maryland Tough, Baltimore Strong Alliance.”

“The Alliance is made up of leaders who are doubling down on their commitment to the city and their commitment to this state,” Moore said. “Many have agreed to not lay off employees. Many have agreed to return to Baltimore even if they need to move somewhere else temporarily. And all have agreed to help us build a better future.”

The group includes more than 50 members, including foundations, businesses and sports teams, who Moore said have committed more than $15 million “to support our workers and our neighbors in this moment.”

“Now I know our state’s largest city is being tested right now,” Moore said. “But Baltimore has been tested before. We get knocked down, we stand back up and we dust ourselves off and we move forward. That is what we do.”

The Maryland congressional delegation announced in a written statement released Friday afternoon that the U.S. Department of Labor had issued a $3.5 million grant through its emergency National Dislocated Worker Grant program “to create temporary clean up and recovery jobs for workers impacted by the tragic collapse of Baltimore’s Francis Scott Key Bridge.”

“We will never forget the six Marylanders we lost in this tragedy, and we’re holding their memories and their families close to our hearts throughout each step of this process,” the lawmakers wrote in the statement. “The collapse also caused serious consequences for our state’s economy, but the reality is that the whole country depends on the Port of Baltimore so the impact is felt far and wide.”

“This tragedy took reliable revenue and income from small businesses and hundreds of thousands of workers,” they added. “With this funding, we hope to relieve some of the economic burden and provide stability in a time of uncertainty and grief as teams work to restore the Port as swiftly and safely as possible.”

White House budget director Shalanda Young on Friday ahead of the visit wrote to Congress to urge lawmakers to authorize a “a 100 percent Federal cost share for rebuilding the bridge.”

“This authorization would be consistent with past catastrophic bridge collapses, including in 2007, when the Congress acted in a bipartisan manner within days of the I-35W bridge collapse in Minnesota,” Young wrote.

U.S. Sens. Ben Cardin and Chris Van Hollen as well as U.S. Rep. Kweisi Mfume, all Democrats, were at the Friday event with Biden and pledged to help move any legislation needed through Congress.