Buttigieg: No timeline yet on Baltimore port reopening



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Transportation Secretary Pete Buttigieg said Wednesday that there’s currently no timeline for when the Port of Baltimore can reopen following the collapse of the Francis Scott Key Bridge a day prior.

“Too soon to venture an estimate,” he told reporters during the White House daily press briefing. “The vast majority of the port is inside of that bridge, which means most of it cannot operate.”

Buttigieg, who traveled to Baltimore on Tuesday hours after the collapse, said he is concerned about the local economic impact of the port closure and noted that 8,000 jobs are directly associated with port activities. And, he added, more than $100 million in cargo moves in and out of the port in a day. 

“Reopening the port is a different matter from rebuilding the bridge. The port, that’s just a matter of clearing the channel,” he said. “Still no simple thing, but I would expect that can happen on a much quicker timeline than the full reconstruction of the bridge.”

When asked whether it will be a matter of days, weeks, or months, Buttigieg said, “As you can imagine, I’m asking our teams the same question.”

The secretary noted that a nearby facility, Sparrows Point, can handle some amount of cargo and that other ports along the east coast, including in New York, New Jersey and Virginia, are absorbing some of the need.

President Biden vowed to rebuild the bridge after a cargo ship, named Dali, crashed into the structure around 1:30 a.m. Tuesday, causing the collapse. The ship was en route to Sri Lanka.

The president said he expects the federal government to foot the bill and that Congress will support the effort.

When asked about a timeline for the bridge reopening, Buttigieg said the administration needs to get a sense of the condition of its infrastructure, but it will be “some time.”

He noted that it took five years to build the original bridge but added that it doesn’t “necessarily mean five years to replace.” 

Additionally, for the workers at the port, Buttigieg said it’s a “major concern” of the administration that they will be without work during the reconstruction. He added that they will “turn over every stone” to find resources to help.

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