News Article

Biden pledges federal dollars for ‘entire cost’ to rebuild collapsed Baltimore bridge
March 26, 2024


By: Jacob Fischler

President Biden called Tuesday for the federal government to foot the bill to rebuild the Francis Scott Key Bridge outside Baltimore following its collapse earlier in the day.

The ongoing search-and-rescue operation led by the U.S. Coast Guard is the top priority for now, Biden said in brief remarks from the White House on Tuesday afternoon.

The bridge collapsed around 1:30 a.m. Tuesday after a container ship struck it.

Biden said the federal government should fund all reconstruction costs. Congress would have to approve any federal funding.

“It’s my intention that the federal government will pay for the entire cost of reconstructing the bridge,” Biden said. “And I expect the Congress to support my effort. It’s going to take some time. The people of Baltimore can count on us, though, to stick with them every step of the way.”

Asked if the shipping company should be held responsible for the costs of reconstruction, Biden said the federal government should act before a determination of fault is made.

“That might be, but we’re not going to wait for that to happen,” he said. “We’re going to pay for it to get the bridge rebuilt and open.”

Biden’s public remarks came shortly after speaking with Maryland Gov. Wes Moore, Baltimore Mayor Brandon Scott, Baltimore County Executive John A. Olszewski Jr. and the Maryland congressional delegation, during which the president said he promised federal resources to rebuild the bridge and reopen the Port of Baltimore, which closed shortly after the bridge collapse.

“I told them we’re going to send all the federal resources they need as they respond to this emergency,” he said. “I mean all the federal resources. And we’re going to rebuild that bridge together.”

Biden said he was quite familiar with the bridge from his days as a regular commuter from Wilmington, Delaware to Washington, D.C., when he served as a U.S. senator. The bridge, along Interstate 695, is a major north-south thoroughfare that loops around the City of Baltimore and serves as a viable alternative to sections of I-95, one of the most congested highways in the country.

Biden said he would visit Baltimore “as quickly as I can.”

In a statement released just after Biden’s White House appearance, U.S. Sen. Ben Cardin (D-Md.) said he had spoken with the president, with U.S. Transportation Secretary Pete Buttigieg and other federal officials and felt confident that federal, state and local officials were communicating and cooperating to the fullest extent possible.

“Our first priority is rescue,” Cardin said. “Next will be determining the most effective way to clear the channel reopen the Port of Baltimore, which is critically important to our commerce. At every stage, I’ll be working with Mayor Scott and Governor Moore and all of Team Maryland to make federal resources available to reopen the Port of Baltimore, redirect critical road traffic, and rebuild the Key Bridge as quickly as possible.”

U.S. Rep. Kweisi Mfume (D-7th), whose district includes the bridge and the Port of Baltimore, called the bridge collapse “an unthinkable horror,” but said federal authorities are already providing welcome assistance.

“They are responding with all of the assets at their disposal,” Mfume said. “Our prayers right now are for the missing individuals and victims of this tragedy. We thank God for the effective service of our first responders.”

Cardin said he and Sen. Chris Van Hollen (D-Md.) had heard from Senate Democratic leaders, pledging their support for full federal funding for bridge reconstruction. But whether the Republicans who control the House of Representatives go along with the idea is very much an open question.

Josh Kurtz contributed to this report.