Watch CBS News

Francis Scott Key Bridge History: Baltimore landmark and thoroughfare stood for 47 years

Francis Scott Key Bridge History: Baltimore landmark and thoroughfare stood for 47 years
Francis Scott Key Bridge History: Baltimore landmark and thoroughfare stood for 47 years 03:01

BALTIMORE - The Francis Scott Key Memorial Bridge, a Baltimore landmark and thoroughfare, collapsed on Tuesday into the Patapsco River.

"It really is a feat of modern engineering and to see something like that go down is a real tragedy," said Nicholas A. Redding, CEO & President of Preservation Maryland. 

A cargo ship crashed into the bridge around 1:30 a.m. nearly 47 years to the date when it opened. Eight construction workers who were repairing potholes fell into the river. Two were rescued while the six were presumed dead.

On March 23, 1977, Baltimore welcomed the Key Bridge spanning across the Patapsco River and completing the eastern sector of I-695. 

"The bridge was a key part of the skyline of our infrastructure it knits together the fabric of our communities," Redding said.

The bridge connected Dundalk to Baltimore, and Baltimore to the world.

WATCH: Francis Scott Key Bridge collapse search and rescue update, full press conference 17:07

Construction on the 1.6-mile bridge started in 1972 to ease congestion throughout the city.

Redding said the estimated $110 million project filled a major void in transportation, shipping and infrastructure.

"They knew there had to be a second crossing and initially they thought that there would be a tunnel but the reality was the tunnel was going to be more expensive and this bridge would be cheaper and allow them to move more materials in a heavily congested area," Redding said.

One of the longest truss bridges in the United States was named after Francis Scott Key, who was inspired to write the Star Spangled Banner after witnessing the bombardment of Fort McHenry in 1814. 

"It's believed that Key was about 100 yards away from the bridge itself when he was aboard ship and penned what would become the Port of Maryland," Redding said. 

In its 47 years, the iconic bridge has undergone many changes, perhaps the most notable was its expansion to the lanes leading up to it. 

"There was expansion efforts to make sure that there were four lanes on each side," Redding said. 

MDTA officials say that nearly 31,000 people traveled the bridge each day, and more than $11 million per year.

"Sometimes we take things like this for granted, and when we lose them, we really see the impact profoundly," Redding said. "The effort to rebuild it is going to be equally historic because it's going to be a big effort to do that but to do it quickly, safely." 

The collapse of the bridge will have major impacts in our area. 

President Biden pledged the federal government's support in rebuilding the bridge. 

View CBS News In
CBS News App Open
Chrome Safari Continue
Be the first to know
Get browser notifications for breaking news, live events, and exclusive reporting.