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  • Writer's pictureThe San Juan Daily Star

Baltimore to open temporary shipping route around Key Bridge wreckage

The wreckage of the Francis Scott Key bridge lies across the bow of the cargo ship Dali in Baltimore on Saturday, March 30, 2024. Officials in Baltimore were preparing on Monday, April 1, 2024, to open a temporary alternate channel around wreckage from the collapsed bridge for “commercially essential vessels.” (Pete Kiehart/The New York Times)

By Mike Ives

Officials in Baltimore were preparing on Monday to open a temporary alternate channel around wreckage from the collapsed Francis Scott Key Bridge for “commercially essential vessels.”

The bridge, a critical link to the Port of Baltimore, collapsed March 26 after it was hit by a giant cargo ship. Wreckage has been blocking a vital shipping lane into the port ever since.

The temporary channel was announced late Sunday by the state and federal agencies leading the response to the disaster. Their announcement, which did not give a timeline, was a sign of incremental progress in what experts say will be a long recovery process at one of America’s busiest ports.

“This will mark an important first step along the road to reopening the port of Baltimore,” Capt. David O’Connell, a commander for the Coast Guard’s Maryland-National Capital region, said in the announcement. “By opening this alternate route, we will support the flow of marine traffic into Baltimore.”

The announcement said that the temporary channel was part of a phased approach to reopening the port’s shipping channel. It also provided the channel’s dimensions: a controlling depth of 11 feet, with a 264-foot horizontal clearance and a 96-foot vertical one.

Officials coordinating the response to the Key Bridge collapse did not immediately respond to a request for comment outside of working hours Monday.

Salvage experts have said that clearing debris around the wrecked structure in the Patapsco River is likely to take weeks. It’s unclear how much longer it would take for shipping to reach normal levels.

News of the temporary channel was reported earlier by The Washington Post.

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