President Joe Biden addresses the Baltimore, Maryland, bridge collapse in the Roosevelt Room of the White House in Washington, DC, on March 26.

President Joe Biden addresses the Baltimore, Maryland, bridge collapse in the Roosevelt Room of the White House in Washington, DC, on March 26. PEDRO UGARTE / Getty Images

Biden vows to rebuild collapsed Baltimore bridge as feds lead emergency response

Six people remain missing after the Francis Scott Key Bridge collapsed into the Patapsco River early Tuesday when a cargo ship lost control and crashed into a support column.

President Biden on Tuesday vowed that the federal government would pay to rebuild the Francis Scott Key Bridge south of Baltimore after it collapsed overnight when a cargo ship collided with a support column for the structure.

The incident occurred around 1:30 a.m. Tuesday morning. According to The Baltimore Banner, the ship’s crew was able to send a “mayday” to alert authorities that they had lost control of the vessel, allowing emergency personnel to close the bridge to traffic before it made impact, something Biden said “undoubtedly saved lives.” Though no motorists were on the bridge, a construction crew, of whom at least six remained missing, fell into the water.

In Oval Office remarks Tuesday, Biden said that U.S. Coast Guard personnel reacted swiftly to the bridge collapse and is leading search and rescue operations. First responders have thus far been able to recover two people from the site, one of whom was uninjured while the second is in critical condition.

“Multiple U.S. Coast Guard units, which were stationed very nearby, thank God, were immediately deployed along with local emergency personnel,” Biden said. “The Coast Guard is leading the response at the port [of Baltimore], where representatives from Federal Highway Administration, the FBI, Department of Transportation, the Army Corps of Engineers, as well as Maryland officials and Baltimore police and fire, they’re all working together to coordinate an emergency response.”

Just after 5 a.m., Transportation Secretary Pete Buttigieg posted on social media that he had offered his department’s support to Maryland Gov. Wes Moore and Baltimore Mayor Brandon Scott, and Biden said that Buttigieg was personally in the Port of Baltimore as part of the response effort.

At 1.6 miles in length, the Francis Scott Key Bridge is a short yet important regional thoroughfare. It is part of the Baltimore Beltway and sees 30,000 vehicles cross it every day. Its collapse also has halted traffic in and out of the Port of Baltimore, a major shipping hub that boasts the most importing and exporting of motor vehicles and light trucks in the United States, with 850,000 vehicles being transported in and out each year.

Biden said that after search and rescue operations have concluded, the federal government will continue to lead recovery efforts. The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers will oversee clearing the channel of bridge debris so that the port may reopen. And he said he plans to ask Congress for legislation authorizing the federal government to pay all of the costs associated with rebuilding the bridge.

“As I’ve told Gov. Moore, I’ve directed my team to move heaven and earth to reopen the port and rebuild the bridge as soon as humanly possible,” Biden said. “And we’re going to work hand-in-hand to support Maryland with whatever they ask for, and we’re going to work with our partners in Congress to make sure the state gets the support that they need. It is my intention that the federal government will pay for the entire cost of reconstructing the bridge, and I expect Congress to support my effort.”

In August 2007, the Interstate 35W bridge in Minnesota collapsed during evening rush hour, killing 13 people and injuring another 145. Within days, Congress had passed legislation unanimously to pay for the reconstruction effort, which culminated in a replacement opening to the public in September 2008.