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Revisiting the Key Bridge Collapse

July 8 2024
Economy, Legislative Affairs, Standards

On March 26th, the Francis Scott Key Bridge spanning the Port of Baltimore collapsed. A crucial port for the export of motor vehicles as well as a top 20 port by tonnage in the country, the collapse threatened to handicap imports and exports in the region for months – if not years. Beyond the inaccessibility of the port, diverting traffic to other crossings would put further strain on already busy infrastructure.

This collapse, however uncommon the cause, also shed light on nationwide infrastructure. Thousands of bridges, hundreds of miles of roads, and aging power grids all have the potential to do to their metro areas what the Key Bridge and its subsequent collapse did to the city of Baltimore. We have made great strides in recent years thanks to federal and statewide investment, with billions now being directed to modernize and improve infrastructure across the country. But we cannot take our foot of the gas – the Key Bridge collapse should be treated as a rallying cry for continuing investment to avoid disasters, not as an outlier in an otherwise structurally sound nation.

In the last two weeks, the channel was cleared to allow ships in and out of the port, once again opening the port to maritime transit. A concerted effort from the private and public sectors have made the best of a bad situation, and done a fantastic job in doing so. But we cannot expose ourselves to more bad situations. Much of the funding is out there, much of the labor is out there – whether they know it or not – and there are enough maintenance projects out there to keep ourselves busy for years to come. Infrastructure development is not only about fixing the past, but protecting ourselves for the future. Baltimore will emerge stronger once construction is complete – why not make the rest of the nation stronger in the meantime?

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