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President Biden Pledges to Use "Union Labor and American Steel" to Rebuild Key Bridge

Anna Moneymaker via Getty Images

On Friday, standing against the backdrop of the collapsed Francis Scott Key Bridge, President Joe Biden reaffirmed his commitment to tap federal funds to rebuild the bridge. He pledges to spare no effort in expediting its reconstruction. The president emphasized the importance of restoring the channel for port traffic and underscored the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers' objective to clear a path for commercial vessels by the end of May.

Asserting that the new bridge would be constructed using union labor and American steel, Biden made these declarations in a press conference at the Maryland Transportation Authority Police headquarters, approximately a half a mile east of the bridge.

Biden's statements followed an aerial survey of the wreckage and a briefing on the bridge's current status. He noted that the six construction workers who tragically lost their lives in the collapse were on a break at the time. One of them, Carlos Hernández, had just left a message for his girlfriend about pouring concrete and waiting for it to set—a poignant metaphor for Biden's commitment to replacing the span.

“My vow is that we will not rest, as Carlos said, until the cement has dried on the entirety of a new bridge,” Biden said, to applause from the assembled officials, including Maryland Governor Wes Moore, Baltimore Mayor Brandon Scott, Transportation Secretary Pete Buttigieg, and Maryland Senators Ben Cardin and Chris Van Hollen.

The collapse of the bridge has indefinitely halted ship traffic to and from the Port of Baltimore. However, crews have managed to clear two pathways for smaller vessels involved in the cleanup effort, with plans for a third.

The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers recently revised its timeline to clear a 280-foot wide, 35-foot deep channel by the end of April, which will allow one-way traffic in and out of the port. Subsequently, the aim is to reopen the permanent, 700-foot wide, 50-foot deep channel by the end of May, effectively restoring port access to normal capacity.

The Key Bridge collapsed in the early hours of Tuesday, March 26, when the cargo ship Dali collided with one of its piers. Despite a mayday from the ship's crew prompting a halt in traffic on the bridge, eight construction workers performing maintenance work fell into the Patapsco River, resulting in six fatalities.

After his speech, Biden was scheduled to meet with the families of the deceased construction workers to offer his condolences.

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