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Francis Scott Key Bridge reconstruction should be paid for by federal government, Biden says

Biden on Baltimore bridge collapse
Biden says feds should pay for Baltimore bridge collapse rebuild 14:27

Washington — President Biden said Tuesday that he believes the federal government should pay for the entire cost of the reconstruction of the Francis Scott Key Bridge in Baltimore, which collapsed when a container ship crashed into it earlier Tuesday.

"It is my intention that the federal government will pay for the entire cost of reconstructing that bridge, and I expect the Congress to support my effort," Mr. Biden said in remarks from the White House, adding that he plans to visit Baltimore as soon as he can.

"To the people of Baltimore, I want to say, we're with you," the president also said. "We're going to stay with you as long as it takes."

Sen. Chris Van Hollen, a Maryland Democrat, said Mr. Biden has "pledged the full support of the federal government." Hollen said it's a top priority to clear the channel under the bridge because thousands of jobs are "immediately at stake," which could have a ripple effect on the wider economy. 

"We need to get that channel cleared. And then, of course, replacing the bridge will come next and we're going to have to work very hard to get those resources put together to do the job," he said on CBS News' "America Decides." "So number one, search and rescue. Number two, clear the channel, reopen the port. Number three, rebuild the bridge." 

Search efforts continue after Baltimore bridge collapse 03:59

About 35,000 people cross the bridge in a day to get to and from Baltimore, and workers at the port earn about $2 million in wages each day, Van Hollen said. 

The diversion of car traffic will have an impact, "but the larger economic impact, at least in the coming months, will be that Port of Baltimore. As long as ships cannot get in and out, it will have a harmful impact on jobs there." 

Van Hollen said it was too early to put a price tag on what it will cost to replace the bridge, and he called on Congress to work together to quickly provide the resources. 

Federal authorities said Tuesday that they don't believe the crash was an intentional act, adding that there is no evidence the incident was connected to terrorism.

Federal and state officials, including from the National Transportation Safety Board, are continuing their investigations, and search and rescue efforts are underway since the collapse sent vehicles and people into the water. 

"There is no specific or credible information to suggest there are ties to terrorism in this incident," said William J. DelBagno, the special agent in charge of the FBI's Baltimore field office, during a press conference Tuesday morning. 

NTSB chair Jennifer Homendy said Tuesday afternoon that the agency is leading the investigation, noting that search and rescue was still underway and that the focus remains on the people and families. 

"The rest can wait," Homendy said, noting that there wasn't a lot of information she could share at the time. 

The Francis Scott Key Bridge collapsed around 1:30 a.m. Tuesday after a large container ship hit a supporting column. 

The bridge spans 1.6 miles across the Patapsco River in the Port of Baltimore and was built in the 1970s. The bridge gets its name from Francis Scott Key, the author of "The Star-Spangled Banner." 

Baltimore's Francis Scott Key Bridge collapsed early Tuesday March 26, 2024, after a support column was struck by a vessel.
Baltimore's Francis Scott Key Bridge collapsed early Tuesday, March 26, 2024, after a support column was struck by a vessel. Karl Merton Ferron/The Baltimore Sun/Tribune News Service via Getty Images

Tuesday's collapse came after the Singapore-flagged cargo vessel "lost propulsion" and hit a supporting tower of the bridge, according to an unclassified Cybersecurity and Infrastructure Security Agency memo reviewed by CBS News and confirmed by a law enforcement official. 

Officials said in a news conference that the crew issued a mayday before the collision, which allowed officials to begin stopping traffic onto the bridge. Officials did not clarify how many vehicles were on the bridge at the time of the collapse, but Maryland Gov. Wes Moore said the decision to stop traffic "saved lives last night." 

Secretary of Transportation Pete Buttigieg said in a social media post on Tuesday morning that he spoke with Moore and Baltimore Mayor Brandon Scott, offering the Transportation Department's support after the bridge collapse. The Department of Transportation is expected to release emergency response funds. 

Department of Homeland Security Secretary Alejandro Mayorkas said the U.S. Coast Guard was on the scene, coordinating with state and local partners on search and rescue operations. Mayorkas said there was "no indication" that the incident was intentional. He noted that the department was assessing the impact on the Port of Baltimore.

Moore said the "preliminary investigation points to an accident," although officials are continuing to investigate the incident. Moore declared a state of emergency earlier on Tuesday, saying he was working with the Biden administration to deploy federal resources. 

Van Hollen said the president also ordered the Army Corps of Engineers to deploy to the scene to help clear the area under the bridge and open the shipping channel. 

Nicole Sganga contributed to this report.

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