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Transportation Secretary Pete Buttigieg says "we don't fully know" conditions for Baltimore bridge repair

Buttigieg: "We don't fully know" Baltimore bridge conditions
Pete Buttigieg says "we don't fully know" conditions for Baltimore bridge repair 06:50

Washington — Transportation Secretary Pete Buttigieg said that as officials eye rebuilding efforts, it's not fully known the condition of what remains of the Francis Scott Key Bridge in Baltimore after it collapsed days ago when it was hit by a cargo ship.

"A lot goes into how that reconstruction will be designed, how the process is going to work," Buttigieg said on "Face the Nation" on Sunday. He noted that he didn't have an estimate on the rebuilding timeline, but the bridge itself took five years to initially construct. "Right now we don't fully know everything we need to know about the condition of the portions of the bridge that did not collapse."

First, as officials are working to clear debris and reopen the channel. Buttigieg said it remains unclear how long that process will take, but the work is "underway." He said that it's going to be a "very complex process," noting the process for dismantling what remains of the bridge safely. 

"It has to be done because that is the only way to get into most of the Port of Baltimore," Buttigieg said, making clear its importance not only to Maryland but also for national supply chains.

Then there's the process of rebuilding the bridge, which is expected to take longer. Buttigieg noted that work is already underway there as well, after the federal government released $60 million in emergency relief funding. Additional emergency funds are expected to follow. 

"This is not going to happen overnight, but we're going to help Maryland do it as quickly as they responsibly can," Buttigieg said. 

The administration is expected to turn to Congress to approve additional funding to rebuild the bridge. Last week, President Biden outlined that he wants the federal government to pay for the entire cost of the bridge's reconstruction, adding that he expects Congress to support the effort. But they may face opposition from some Republicans.

Buttigieg said the pitch to lawmakers is that "your district could be next."

"This has historically been bipartisan," he said, noting support for bridge rebuilding funds in a 2007 collapse along with support for the Bipartisan Infrastructure package in 2021. "If there's anything left in this country that is more bipartisan than infrastructure, it should be emergency response. This is both, and I hope that Congress will be willing if and when we turn to them." 

Baltimore Mayor Brandon Scott, who also appeared on "Face the Nation" on Sunday, said he has the "best congressional delegation in the United States Congress," and Maryland lawmakers have been on the ground in Baltimore and "are going to do everything in their power to bring back resources for this tragedy."

The mayor said that "no party conversation should be involved at all" in the discussion of how aid will be sent to Baltimore. 

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