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Buttigieg Calls on Congress for More Money to Collapsed Baltimore Bridge

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Transportation Secretary Pete Buttigieg and Maryland Democrats on Sunday urged Congress to authorize additional federal dollars needed to rebuild the Francis Scott Key Bridge in Baltimore after it collapsed last week.

“I hope and expect this, too, will be a bipartisan priority,” Mr. Buttigieg said on CBS News’s “Face the Nation.” He cited the case of a Minnesota bridge whose $250 million reconstruction plan was approved by Congress in a unanimous vote two days after its collapse in August 2007, and added that “the pitch is, your district could be next, and this has historically been bipartisan.”

The Department of Transportation announced on Thursday that it had allocated $60 million in emergency federal highway funding toward rebuilding the bridge. That initial batch of money, which the department called “a down payment,” is unlikely to cover the full cost of construction that experts say could require hundreds of millions of dollars.

The push for additional federal funding reflects officials’ belief that a prolonged disruption to the Port of Baltimore would cause ripple effects across the U.S. economy. The harbor has one of the largest facilities in the nation for wheeled cargo such as cars and trucks, and it serves as a key logistics hub for the auto industry for both imports and exports.

“People have to remember: This is not a Baltimore catastrophe, not a Maryland catastrophe. This is a national economic catastrophe,” Gov. Wes Moore of Maryland, a Democrat, said on Sunday on CNN’s “State of the Union.” “We need to make sure we’re actually moving quickly to get the American economy going again because the Port of Baltimore is instrumental in our larger economic growth.”

Mayor Brandon Scott of Baltimore, also a Democrat, echoed Mr. Moore’s argument that the bridge collapse — which has shut down the harbor — is not a local tragedy but a choke on the U.S. economy.

“This port is the No. 1 port for cars and farm equipment, so this matters to folks in rural North Carolina, in Kansas, in Iowa,” Mr. Scott said. “This should not be something that has anything — or any conversation — around” party lines.

President Biden said last week that the federal government would pay for “the entire cost” of rebuilding the Baltimore bridge, urging Congress to join his efforts to pump federal dollars into reconstruction efforts.

But his promise was met with an immediate pushback from Republican lawmakers, and even some in his own party, who raised concerns around the federal government’s assuming the full cost of reconstruction without first holding the shipowners accountable.

Representative Dan Meuser, a Republican of Pennsylvania, called Mr. Biden’s pledge for federal funding “outrageous” and “a knee-jerk spend reaction.”

Clearing the debris, which is blocking a vital shipping lane to the port, will take place in the next few weeks, engineering experts said. The full recovery of the Port of Baltimore could be many years ahead, as engineers expect the Francis Scott Key Bridge to take several years to rebuild.

The cost of clearing the debris from the bridge collapse is fully covered by the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, which maintains the shipping channel in Baltimore.

Adeel Hassan contributed reporting.



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