Transportation Sec Buttigieg says gov't must 'tear down' barriers to rebuild Baltimore bridge

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Transportation Secretary Pete Buttigieg told “America’s Newsroom” on Wednesday that “we got to make sure that funding is not an obstacle” and that “we tear down any administrative barriers” to get the Francis Scott Key Bridge in Baltimore rebuilt as soon as possible. 

Buttigieg made the comment as divers are currently in the frigid waters of the Patapsco River searching for the remains of six construction workers who are presumed dead following Tuesday’s collapse, which was caused by a cargo ship striking a pillar of the bridge. 

“We’ve got to make sure that funding is not an obstacle, and we got to make sure that we tear down any administrative barriers, too. And that’s going to require a lot of work,” Buttigieg said. “We’re going to do everything we can as a department that does not require an act of Congress. But we’re also going to engage Congress because we will likely need their help to make sure some of the funding is in place.” 

“That bridge took five years to build. We don’t yet have an estimate on how long it will take to rebuild,” he added. “So the president made it very clear that every tool [in] the federal government needs to be available to Governor Wes Moore as the state of Maryland leads the work on both the bridge and the port.” 


Ship stuck after Baltimore bridge collapse

A cargo ship is stuck on Wednesday under the Francis Scott Key Bridge following yesterday’s collapse in Baltimore. (AP/Steve Helber)

Buttigieg described the Port of Baltimore near where the bridge collapsed as the “biggest vehicle handling port in the United States” that also handles a lot of farm equipment. 

“We also have to prepare for the supply chain implications of this. The bridge itself carried about 30,000 vehicles a day,” he said. “There are tunnels that work as alternatives, but there’s going to be some impacts on traffic.” 


Looking west, the Francis Scott Key Bridge glistens in the sunset

The Francis Scott Key Bridge in Baltimore on May 7, 2017. Transportation Secretary Pete Buttigieg said it took five years to build the bridge, which originally opened in 1977. (Rick Brady)

Buttigieg called the impact on shipping operations at the port a “major concern.” 

“One thing that’s important to understand is the way that the flow of cargo ships is handled is very different from something like air traffic control, where if, say, a runway goes out or there’s a problem with an airport and planes have to divert, there is a single authority telling those planes what to do and where to go,” he told “America’s Newsroom.” 

“It doesn’t work that way with ocean shipping. You’ve got different shippers, different ports, different terminals, different cargo owners. They’re under no requirement to talk to each other. But we’ve been using the relationships and some of the tools we have at the Department of Transportation to make sure that coordination does happen,” Buttigieg added. 

Francis Scott Key bridge collapse aftermath

Portions of the Francis Scott Key Bridge are seen in the Patapsco River on Wednesday, March 27. (AP/Matt Rourke)


“There’s no question that if the investigation determines that any private party or parties are responsible, they will be held accountable. But that can’t be something that we’re just waiting around for,” the transportation secretary also said. “We’ve got to make sure that we work now, today to get this bridge back up and to get this port back open.” 

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