Buttigieg vows federal support to protect 8,000 jobs impacted by Baltimore Key bridge collapse

NEWS: Buttigieg vows federal support to protect 8,000 jobs impacted by Baltimore Key bridge collapse

US Transportation Secretary Pete Buttigieg has vowed to help protect some 8,000 jobs directly tied to the activity at the Port of Baltimore as it remains unclear when it will reopen following the Francis Scott Key bridge collapse.

Buttigieg, who hailed the port as a one of America’s busiest trade routes, told reporters on Wednesday that the Biden administration was concerned with the economic impacts looming over the port’s closure, with billions of dollars in trade and thousands of jobs at risk.

Buttigieg estimated that between $100 to $200 million in value of goods pass through the port every day, with about $2 million in wages affected by the closure. 

“If ships aren’t moving, they’re not working,” Buttigieg said. “That’s one of our main areas of concern. 

Transportation Secretary Pete Buttigieg said the government’s main concern was to mitigate the impacts of the Francis Scott Key Bridge collapse. Getty Images
The wreckage has left the Port of Baltimore inaccessible via the Patapsco River. AP

“No matter how quickly the channel can be reopened, we know it can’t happen overnight,” he added. “So we’re going to have to manage the impact in the meantime.”

The Port of Baltimore generates more than 15,300 jobs, with about 140,000 jobs linked to the activity at the port.

It is the nation’s leading import and export site for cars, light trucks, sugar and gypsum, with a record 52.3 million tons of foreign cargo valued at about $80 billion transported through the port last year.

With reopening the port remaining the federal government’s top priority, Buttigieg said the Biden administration will also focus on dealing with the supply chain disruptions caused by the closure, along with rebuilding the bridge and mitigating the impact to traffic for the 35,000 vehicles that crossed it every day.

Six construction workers went missing after the bridge collapsed. AFP via Getty Images
Police officers had saved dozens of lives by shutting down traffic seconds before the bridge came down. rfaraino

Buttigieg’s comments echoed that of President Joe Biden, who said he would “move heaven and Earth” to restore the affected area and help those employed at the port.

“We’re going to do everything we can to protect those jobs and help those workers,” the president said Tuesday.

Officials have yet to provide a working timeline of when the port will be accessible and how much money it will cost to rebuild the bridge.

To reopen the port, the US Coast Guard said it must first free the Dali cargo vessel from the debris of the fallen bridge.

US Coast Guard Vice Admr. Peter Gautier said Wednesday that crews are working to get the ship operational again and remove it from the Patapsco River.

Miguel Luna, 49, was one of the workers who tragically lost their lives in the bridge collapse, his wife told Telemundo. Telemundo Washington
Maynor Suazo (right), 37, one of the workers presumed dead in the collapse. Courtesy Carlos Suazo

The clean-up efforts come as officials said the rescue for the remaining six construction workers who were caught in the collapse turned into a recovery mission.

So far, Miguel Luna, 49, and Maynor Yassir Suazo Sandoval, 37, have been the only two identified among the half-dozen presumed dead, according to reports.

The six known victims — who all worked for Brawner Builders — originally hailed from Honduras, El Salvador, Guatemala and Mexico, according to officials from the different countries. 

Sandoval, the father to a 5-year-old girl, has been in the US since 2003 but had just started working for the construction company last year, the Wall Street Journal reported.

Federal investigators have recovered the black box data recorder aboard the Dali cargo ship. via REUTERS

Luna, a father of six, was a veteran with the company, g for Brawner Builders for 14 years.

As the search for the six men continues, the National Transport Safety Board is investigating what went wrong when the Dali collided with the bridge, with officials recovering the vessel’s black box data recorder.

NTSB Chair Jennifer Homendy told reporters Wednesday that the black box will help investigators create a timeline of events outlining what occurred early Tuesday morning and provide information about the alleged power outage the ship suffered moments before the crash.

Terri Jones, of Dundalk, Maryland, had driven through the bridge just minutes before it collapsed. Ron Sachs – CNP for NY Post

Terri Jones, 56, who was one of the last drivers on the bridge before police stopped the traffic, told The Post she witnessed the Dali’s lights “flickering on and off.”

“Then I noticed that the ship was off as well because I’ve never seen a ship that close to the bridge like that,” she said. “I was just like I need to hurry up and get to the bottom of the bridge.”

By the time she got off the bridge, Jones said she “heard an explosion” that she initially assumed was one of her tires falling flat.

“When I looked to see the tire, to see if any of the tires in the back had exploded…I see the boat hitting the bridge,” she said. “Then I looked and I saw the bridge collapsed.”

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