U.S. Initiates Nationwide Inquiry Into Bridge Safety After Baltimore Bridge Collapse Incident

Baltimore Bridge
Image Credits: USACEBaltimore/Twitter

The United States Coast Guard has taken prompt action after a terrible incident in March in which a cargo ship collided with the Francis Scott Key Bridge in Baltimore, killing six people and destroying the Patapsco River bridge.

During a U.S. House hearing on May 15, 2024, the U.S. Coast Guard Vice Admiral Peter Gautier announced a nationwide investigation to assess the safety of other bridges across the country.

Gautier addressed the changing landscape of maritime transportation, stating that the dimensions and complexities of ships have grown over the years, putting higher demands on marine transportation infrastructure, which may have failed to keep up with the more significant risks that the vessels pose.

He claimed that this investigation will examine current risk management systems and propose solutions to reduce the possibility of similar catastrophic accidents in the future.

The announcement comes amid rising concerns about bridges’ risks to maritime calamities.

Jennifer Homendy, chair of the National Transportation Safety Board, emphasised long-standing recommendations from her agency dating back to 1988, urging an extensive examination of pier protection for bridges over navigable waters, U.S. ports and waterways.

While praising the Coast Guard’s initiative, Homendy highlighted the importance of states, the federal government, and bridge owners performing risk assessments as soon as possible.

Federal Highway Administrator Shailen Bhatt stated that the officials are in contact with the states to bolster bridge protection.

He added that they already have a preliminary list of bridges and are evaluating measures that can be implemented soon.

Bhatt stressed the importance of frequently updating the design standards in response to the ever-evolving nature of maritime vessels.

Following the Baltimore incident, which triggered an FBI investigation, Maryland authorities estimate that the Francis Scott Key Bridge reconstruction will cost between $1.7 Billion and $1.9 Billion, with completion expected by fall 2028.

Meanwhile, salvage operations are underway, with U.S. crews using controlled explosions to remove twisted metal wreckage from the cargo ship’s bow.

The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers revealed plans to use cranes and barges in the salvage operation, highlighting the coordinated effort to manage the impact of the catastrophic incident.

The U.S. Coast Guard’s nationwide investigation is a proactive strategy for improving bridge safety and preventing similar fatalities, indicating a coordinated effort to adapt to the changing dynamics of maritime transportation.

Reference: Reuters

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