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Joint effort fully reopens waterways following Francis Scott Key Bridge collapse

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BALTIMORE, MD—The Fort McHenry Federal Channel has been fully restored to its original size and depth of 700 feet and 50 feet, according to a statement released on Monday evening by the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers.

The restoration project was part of a joint effort to reopen the waterways in the wake of the Francis Scott Key Bridge collapse in March. The Federal Channel was initially 300 feet wide and 35 feet deep, which was then gradually widened to 400 feet wide and 50 feet deep, allowing for the transit of shallow-draft vessels.

The removal of the bridge wreckage required the removal of about 50,000 tons of bridge wreckage from the Patapsco River. The wreckage was transported to Sparrows Point for processing. The remaining steel will continue to be scrapped and recycled.

The restoration project was a massive undertaking that required the efforts of about 56 federal, state, and local agencies, involving 1,587 individual responders.

“We are proud of the unified efforts that fully reopened the Federal Channel to port operations,” said Lt. Gen. Scott Spellmon, commanding general of USACE. “The partnerships that endured through this response made this pivotal mission successful.”

The reopening of the Federal Channel represents a milestone in the recovery process, but the work to fully restore the waterways remains ongoing. The removal of the bridge wreckage is a critical step in ensuring the safety of boats and other users of the waterways.

The restoration project was a critical component of the overall resilience of the U.S. maritime industry and the strength of the U.S. economy. The reopening of the Federal Channel will allow for the resumption of commercial shipping and other river transportation services, enhancing the efficiency and viability of the U.S. transportation system.

Other significant Unified Command milestones:

  • March 30: Removal of bridge wreckage commences
  • April 2: The first of three Temporary Alternate Channels opens, allowing shallow-draft vessels to transit through the Port of Baltimore
  • April 7: The removal of containers from M/V Dali began
  • April 25: The opening of Limited Access Channel to a width of 300 feet and depth of 35 feet
  • May 9: Recreational vessels permitted to transit through Key Bridge Response Safety Zone
  • May 13: Controlled demolition of Section 4, which had pinned the M/V Dali under a 10-million-pound segment of Key Bridge wreckage
  • May 20: M/V Dali refloated and moved, Federal Channel cleared to a width of 400 feet and depth of 50 feet
  • June 4: The last major piece of steel truss was removed from Federal Channel

This article was written with the assistance of AI and reviewed by a human editor.

Photo: Unified Command’s ongoing salvage work in the Fort McHenry Federal Channel nears its conclusion, as shown in these aerial photos taken Friday afternoon, June 7, 2024. Courtesy of Maryland State Police Aviation Command, salvors continue pulling massive, mangled chunks of Francis Scott Key Bridge wreckage from the watery depths of the Patapsco River.

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