CSX Transportation has launched a dedicated freight route between Baltimore and New York City as part of an effort to reroute cargo following the collapse of the Francis Scott Key Bridge.

The Port of Baltimore, one of the most active on the East Coast and the single largest importer of cars in the United States, has been mostly closed since a nearly 1,000-foot cargo ship lost power and struck a support column of the bridge, toppling the 47-year-old structure.

The new route will handle Baltimore-bound imports being diverted to the Port of New York and New Jersey, as well as freight that was to be exported from the Baltimore port, CNBC reported.

The Army Corps of Engineers and other officials are working to clear the wreckage, which has closed Patapsco River shipping channels that lead to the port. Tradepoint Atlantic, which is located south of the collapsed bridge, remains open.

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The wreck has landed an outsized blow to the local economy. The move by CSX provides a bit of grease to a halted supply chain.

In an emailed statement, CSX Transportation expressed condolences to the families of the victims of the bridge collapse and gratitude to first responders working in the recovery effort. The company “is fully dedicated to meeting our customers’ transportation needs during this challenging period,” the statement continued.

Domestic rail shipments headed to Baltimore remain unaffected, CSX said in a separate statement. The company will continue to operate its coal pier facility in Curtis Bay and is working on contingency plans with international coal customers, CSX said.

The company has not provided further details about how often or for how long the new train connection will be operating, or on the amount of cargo it will handle.

The CSX coal pier and CONSOL Marine Terminal, both located at the Port of Baltimore, combine to export more coal than all U.S. ports but one.

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Maryland has nearly 900 miles of railroad, according to the state’s 2022 rail plan. Florida-based CSX owns roughly half of that track network. It is one of two rail companies operating in the state considered Class I, an elite group of the six highest revenue generating rail companies.

Tuesday morning, U.S. Transportation Secretary Pete Buttigieg announced a new final rule mandating that freight trains be operated by at least two crew members except in narrow and specific circumstances when an exception can be granted. The rule supersedes a patchwork of states — including Maryland — attempting to implement the same regulation in recent years.

U.S. Secretary of Transportation Pete Buttigieg prepares to give an update to reporters at a news conference in Dundalk after a cargo ship crashed into the Francis Scott Key bridge early Tuesday, March 26, 2024, causing its collapse into the Patapsco River. (Ulysses Muñoz/The Baltimore Banner)

“America’s rails are safer today than they were yesterday,” Buttigieg said at the announcement. He opened his remarks expressing gratitude for transportation workers, and later highlighted the collapse of the Key Bridge.

“Last week in Baltimore we were reminded of what is at stake in the safety of our transportation system, that it is literally about lives and about livelihoods,” said Buttigieg.

Daniel Zawodny covers transportation for the The Baltimore Banner as a corps member with Report For America. He is a Baltimore area native and graduated with his master's degree in journalism from American University in 2021. He is bilingual in English and Spanish and previously covered immigration issues.

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