Biden takes helicopter tour of the site of the Baltimore bridge collapse: Marine One flies over the wreckage after the administration announced more than $60million in funds to get port back open

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Written By Maya Cantina

President Joe Biden is touring the site of the collapsed bridge in Baltimore on Friday amid a political upheaval on how to pay for its recovery, which is expected to cost up to $2 billion.

Conservatives on Capitol Hill are already objecting to the price tag.

The House Freedom Caucus wants any the money to be ‘fully offset’ by cuts else where in the federal budget and they demand that the Biden administration lift its pause on approvals for natural gas export projects before they’ll approve any bridge money.

Biden will take an aerial tour of Patapsco River, at the mouth of the Baltimore Harbor, via Marine One, where he’ll see the remains of the Francis Scott Key Bridge as cranes, ships and diving crews work to reopen one the massive shipping lane.

President Joe Biden departs the White House to head to Baltimore to tour the site of the collapsed Francis Scott Key bridge

President Biden, in Marine One, flies over the crash site

President Biden, in Marine One, flies over the crash site

The president also will receive updates from the U.S. Coast Guard and Army Corps of Engineers on the repair process. 

The bridge, in one of the nation’s busiest harbors, was hit by a huge cargo ship and collapsed in the middle of the night of March 26. 

Eight workers – all immigrants from Mexico, Guatemala, Honduras or El Salvador – were filling potholes on the bridge when it was struck. Two men were rescued, but the bodies of only two of the six who died have been recovered.

The president plans to meet with the families of the victims. 

The White House announced Friday it has asked Congress to authorize the federal government to cover 100% of the collapsed bridge cleanup and reconstruction costs, rather than seeking the money through a separate, emergency supplemental funding request.

In a letter to congressional leaders, Office of Management and Budget Director Shalanda Young noted similar techniques were used for recovery and rebuilding efforts that received bipartisan congressional support in 2007, when a highway bridge in downtown Minneapolis collapsed during evening rush hour, killing 13 people.

‘We are asking the Congress to join us in demonstrating our commitment to aid in recovery efforts,’ Young wrote. It remains unclear how much money the administration will need to cover the cost.

The Federal Highway Administration already has given $60 million in emergency funds to get repairs started. And the Transportation Department has allocated $8.2 million to help redirect cargo.

A temporary shipping lane has been installed to help the repair process and move some cargo through.

President Joe Biden, aboard Marine One, takes an aerial tour of the collapsed Francis Scott Key Bridge in Baltimore

President Joe Biden, aboard Marine One, takes an aerial tour of the collapsed Francis Scott Key Bridge in Baltimore

View of the Dali cargo vessel which crashed into the Francis Scott Key Bridge

View of the Dali cargo vessel which crashed into the Francis Scott Key Bridge

The conservative House Freedom Caucus is demanding that the reconstruction not become a ‘pork-filled’ spending project.

‘Before Congress considers any emergency supplemental funding for the Francis Scott Key Bridge in Baltimore, it’s important that (1) we first seek maximum liability from the foreign shipping companies upfront and (2) the Port of Baltimore draws upon already available federal funds,’ the group wrote in a memo published Friday. 

Earlier this week, several operators of the ship – named Dali – filed a petition in U.S. federal court to limit the liability that they owe for causing the crash. 

They cited a law from the 1850’s that could help them cap their liability near the total cost of the ship, which they claim is $43.7 million. 

But the full cost could amount to $2 billion, almost 50 times more than the price the operators are seeking to pay. 

Claims against the ships operators must be submitted to a Baltimore federal court by September 24, according to a federal judge.

‘If it proves necessary to appropriate taxpayer money to get one of America’s busiest ports back online, Congress should ensure it is fully offset and that burdensome regulations … are waived to avoid all unnecessary delays and costs.’

The conservative group is also demanding that the money allocated for the project should strictly ‘be limited to physical structure repairs with a federal nexus.’ 

‘This must not become a pork-filled bill loaded with unrelated projects,’ the memo states. 

The group states they want to see the funding vote for the bridge adhere the the ‘single-subject rule,’ indicating that if there are additional measures attached to the legislation, they could come out against it. 

‘Finally, the Biden Administration’s pause on approvals of liquified natural gas export terminals – which, like the Baltimore harbor closure, has severe implications for foreign trade – must be lifted before Congress considers appropriating any funding for the bridge reconstruction.’

The pause on liquified natural gas (LNG) exports has been a particular sticking point for Republicans in recent months. 

The Biden administration paused LNG exports earlier this year to conduct an environmental review on the process, which Republicans have decried as unnecessary and hurtful to the industry.

The wreckage of the Francis Scott Key bridge

The wreckage of the Francis Scott Key bridge

Cranes are already working on repairs

Cranes are already working on repairs 

A longterm shutdown of the bridge and Baltimore port area could be a jolt to the economy. 

As much as $200 million in cargo normally moves through Baltimore´s port per day, and it is the leading hub for importing and exporting vehicles. 

Top White House officials, including chief of staff Jeff Zients, senior adviser Tom Perez and economic adviser Lael Brainard have called large employers in the Baltimore area to encourage them to retain workers, a White House official said. Those companies include United Parcel Service, Amazon.com, Home Depot and Mercedes-Benz.

Biden, on the day of the collapse, said the federal government will fully pay for the repairs and that they will be done as quickly as possible.

‘We’re going to get it up and running again as soon as possible. 15,000 jobs depend on that port. And we’re going to do everything we can to protect those jobs,’ Biden said in remarks at the White House. 

‘I’m directing my team move heaven and Earth three, open the port and rebuild the bridge as soon as possible,’ he said. 

‘It’s my intention that federal government will pay for the entire cost of reconstruction in that bridge. I expect the Congress to support my effort this is going to take some time. The people of Baltimore can count on us to stick with them at every step of the way,’ Biden said at the time. 

 

The Singaporean-flagged Dali crashed into the Francis Scott Key Bridge on March 26

The Singaporean-flagged Dali crashed into the Francis Scott Key Bridge on March 26

The crash occurred at about 1.30am on the morning of March 26. The ship – the Singaporean-flagged Dali – was 20 minutes into its journey when it slammed into a support column on the bridge. 

The ship’s crew, howefver, managed to issue a Mayday before it crashed into the bridge, which allowed officials to stop cars from going on the bridge. 

The 948 foot long Dali, a Singaporean-flagged container, left Baltimore’s Seagirt Marine Terminal at 12:24am. At 1:25am, is began to slow and diverted off of its course. Video shows lights going off on board just before the crash.

The Dali ship was bound for Colombo, Sri Lanka. It’s unclear what cargo it was holding. The vessel was due to land in Asia on April 27. 

Around 30,000 vehicles use the bridge, which is named for the writer of the Star Spangled Banner, every day. It opened in 1977. 

ᴀʀᴛɪᴄʟᴇ ꜱᴏᴜʀᴄᴇ

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