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Army Corps Of Engineers Aims To Get Baltimore Key Bridge Cleared By End Of May

The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers (USACE) said it hopes to fully clear the wreckage of the Francis Scott Key Bridge by the end of May in a statement Thursday, allowing vessels access the Port of Baltimore just over two months after a cargo ship crashed into one of the supports, crumbling the bridge.

USACE has been working under a unified command with the U.S. Coast Guard and state agencies to survey the wreckage and develop plans to clear the waterway after the boxship M/V Dali demolished a section of the bridge and collapsed it into the waters on March 26, according to the statement. Engineers determined they could clear out a limited access passage within a month to permit limited one-way barge traffic in and out of the port while efforts would remain underway to open the channel fully.

“Thanks to the exhaustive work of the Unified Command during the last two weeks, including underwater surveys and detailed structural analysis of the wreckage, we’ve developed a better understanding of the immense and complex work that lies ahead,” Lt. Gen. Scott A. Spellmon, USACE commanding general, said in the statement. “A fully opened federal channel remains our primary goal, and we will carry out this work with care and precision, with safety as our chief priority.”

The news is a significant update as stormy weather near the harbor has complicated cleanup activities, the Unified Command said.

Authorities say the channel is critical for local and national economic activities, according to CNN. Eleven cargo ships, including four belonging to the U.S. Maritime Administration’s Ready Reserve Force built to deploy at a moment’s notice to support U.S. military forces abroad, are trapped in port, according to Stars and Stripes.

The provisional channel will be about 280 feet wide and 35 feet deep, and allow limited one-way traffic for barge container ships and some roll on/roll off vessels carrying large items like automobiles and farm equipment, USACE said in the statement.

“USACE engineers are aiming to reopen the permanent, 700-foot-wide by 50-foot-deep federal navigation channel by the end of May, restoring port access to normal capacity,” the statement read.

USACE authorities acknowledged that the timeline for reopening the channel is “ambitious.” Inclement weather and unforeseen engineering difficulties could extend projections, Spellmon said.

Six construction workers died in the bridge collapse, and officials are still trying to locate four of the bodies, according to CNN. President Joe Biden will visit the site of the bridge collapse on Friday and meet with families of the deceased.

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