Francis Scott Key Bridge collapse: Crews open temporary channel

BALTIMORE — Crews on Monday opened a temporary channel near the Francis Scott Key Bridge to give commercially essential vessels access to the Port of Baltimore, officials said.

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U.S. Coast Guard Rear Adm. Shannon Gilreath said at a news conference Monday afternoon that crews had cleared an 11-foot channel just to the north of the fallen bridge, under part of the structure that remains standing.

11-foot temporary channel opened

Update 4:05 p.m. EDT April 1: Gilreath called the creation of the channel “real progress” and “another stepping stone” on the path to reopening the port.

“These are stepping stones towards finishing a marathon,” he added. “We’re not there yet. We’re making those steps and strides and we’re going to get there, but it’s going to take us some time.”

At least two transits were scheduled on the channel Monday night. Gilreath said barges and tugs would be leaving the Port of Baltimore so that they can bring back supplies in the future.

Crews were working Monday to cut and lift a 350-ton section of the wreckage. Gilreath said that it will likely happen later this week.

Original report: “This will mark an important first step along the road to reopening the port of Baltimore,” Capt. David O’Connell, the federal on-scene coordinator for Unified Response to the bridge collapse, said Sunday. “By opening this alternate route, we will support the flow of marine traffic into Baltimore.”

Officials said the channel will be on the northeast side of the main channel and marked with government lighted aids to navigation. It will have a controlling depth of 11 feet and be open to government and commercial vessels directly involved in response efforts, officials said.

O’Connell told CBS News that an additional temporary channel will run along the south side of the main channel and accommodate boats requiring up to 14 feet of water to operate. Both lanes are expected to open Monday, the news network reported.

Crews began to remove debris from the Patapsco River on Saturday. People without authorization are prohibited from getting within 2,000 yards of the Francis Scott Key Bridge as cleanup efforts continue.

“I cannot stress enough how important today and the first movement of this bridge and of the wreckage is,” Maryland Gov. Wes Moore said at a news conference Saturday. “This is going to be a remarkably complicated process.”

Demolition crews cut parts of the collapsed bridge into smaller sections so that they could be removed by cranes. Two crane barges, a 650-ton and a 330-ton crane, have been working to remove the wreckage while a 230-ton land-based crane has been used to offload and process the wreckage before it’s transported to a disposal site.

Dive teams also worked over the weekend to survey the wreckage and determine where demolition crews should next focus their efforts.

The main channel has been closed and shipping traffic diverted elsewhere since the Key Bridge fell into the river after being struck by a cargo ship early on Tuesday. Six construction workers are believed to have died in the collapse.

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