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Biden in Baltimore announces more federal assistance after bridge collapse

Biden visits Baltimore bridge collapse site
Biden announces more federal aid in visit to Baltimore bridge collapse site 02:12

President Biden went to Baltimore Friday as a show of support after the collapse of the Francis Scott Key Bridge, announcing additional federal financial support to buoy the city's economy and commerce. 

The president surveyed the devastation from his helicopter, Marine One, Friday afternoon before receiving a briefing from local officials. The bridge fell on March 26 when the Dali, a Singapore-flagged container ship, struck one of the bridge's main supports. Six men who were working on the bridge fell into the Patapsco River below and were killed. Mr. Biden met with their families Friday.

"I've come here to grieve with you," the president told Baltimore residents near where the bridge stood. 

He announced the first tranche of grants for dislocated workers to help replace jobs affected by the collapse. The federal government will also provide $8 million in grant funds for infrastructure improvements at Sparrows Point, the only port unaffected by the collapse. That will allow the port to receive more ships, the president said. He also urged businesses to keep workers in the area on their payroll. Mr. Biden said the full channel will reopen by the end of May. 

"We're coming back. We're coming back soon," the president promised, adding that the government was "going to move heaven and earth to rebuild this bridge as rapidly as humanly possible."

President Biden speaks about the collapse of the Francis Scott Key Bridge as Maryland Gov. Wes Moore looks on in Baltimore on April 5, 2024.
President Biden speaks about the collapse of the Francis Scott Key Bridge as Maryland Gov. Wes Moore looks on in Baltimore on April 5, 2024. BRENDAN SMIALOWSKI/AFP via Getty Images

Maryland Gov. Wes Moore, a Democrat, thanked Mr. Biden for his support. 

"We get knocked down, we stand back up, and we dust ourselves off, and we move forward," Moore said, as he stood next to the president. "That is what we do. And the people — and the people of Maryland are grateful to have a full partner in this work like President Biden." 

"President Biden might not be a Marylander by birth, but I tell ya, he's proven what it means to be Maryland tough and Baltimore strong," Moore said. 

Maryland Bridge Collapse Biden
President Joe Biden, aboard Marine One, takes an aerial tour of the collapsed Francis Scott Key Bridge in Baltimore, Friday, April 5, 2024, as seen from an accompanying aircraft. Manuel Balce Ceneta / AP

At the president's briefing in Baltimore, Brigadier Gen. John Lloyd of the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers described the situation as a "mangled mess" below the water. The president was shown a 3D underwater scan of the debris and wreckage. 

Mr. Biden says the federal government should pay for the entire cost of the bridge's reconstruction, which Congress would need to approve. 

It's not yet clear what that will cost, and some Republicans have expressed opposition to having the federal government foot the bill. The Biden administration has approved $60 million in immediate aid to help clean the wreckage. 

"My vow is that we will not rest ... until the cement has dried on the entirety of a new bridge," the president said Friday. 

White House Office of Management and Budget director Shalanda Young on Friday wrote to Congress and called on lawmakers to authorize "a 100 percent federal cost share for rebuilding the bridge." She reminded them that "Congress acted in a bipartisan manner within days" to provide similar funding after the 2007 collapse of the I-35W bridge collapse in Minnesota.

Next Tuesday, Maryland's congressional delegation will be meeting with Gov. Wes Moore and Young Tuesday to discuss emergency funding for Baltimore and its response to the bridge collapse.

A second temporary channel opened this week for some water traffic to proceed, but it will take years to rebuild the bridge, a key artery for the city, state, and Northeast corridor. The fall of the bridge has been a drag on the local economy, too. About 35,000 cars crossed the bridge each day, and those travelers will now need to take longer and more congested routes.

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