A 1,000-ton crane is set to arrive to the scene of the Key Bridge collapse by midnight and another crane is scheduled to arrive by Saturday as salvage operations continue, Sen. Chris Van Hollen said at a news conference Thursday evening.

He also said the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers is taking on the “full cost” of clearing the channel that shipping vessels use to get in and out of the Port of Baltimore.

“This is not just a Maryland issue, it’s a national and global question,” he said.

And though rebuilding the Francis Scott Key Bridge will take a long time, Van Hollen said emergency relief funding from the Department of Transportation, like the $60 million that was approved earlier Thursday, would cover the “lion’s share” of the reconstruction costs.

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Van Hollen, a Democrat, said he was working with fellow Democrat Sen. Ben Cardin to introduce legislation to get funding to cover the remaining reconstruction costs.

During the same press briefing, Maryland Gov. Wes Moore outlined four priorities that officials would be providing regular updates on in the wake of the Key Bridge collapse: Recovering the bodies of the missing workers; clearing the channel and opening the port to vessel traffic; taking care of all the people affected by the crisis ; and rebuilding the bridge.

“This work will not take hours, this work will not take days. This work will not just take weeks,” Moore said. “We have a very long road ahead of us. We understand that, and we’re prepared.”

Moore announced a hotline has been set up to help workers affected by the bridge collapse navigate unemployment insurance. The phone number is: 667-930-5989.

Here is more news from the Thursday night update:

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Sen. Chris Van Hollen, pictured earlier this week, said he would be working to ensure the entire cost of the bridge replacement is covered by the federal government on Thursday night. (Jessica Gallagher/The Baltimore Banner)


Federal Highway Administrator Shailen Bhatt said the federal government wants to be clear that the $60 million in emergency funds are a “down payment.”

“This is not the final payment,” he said.

While it’s not clear how much the reconstruction of the Key Bridge will cost, Van Hollen said the state qualifies for emergency relief aid for some of the cost.

Rep. Kweisi Mfume, the Democrat who represents Baltimore, said he anticipates speaking with Republican Speaker of the House Mike Johnson Friday morning about legislation to cover the remaining funds necessary.

“This cannot and ought not be a partisan issue,” he said.

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The collapse of the Key Bridge means an entire section of the I-695 Baltimore Beltway has been lost. According to Maryland Department of Transportation Secretary Paul Wiedefeld, the alternative routes across the harbor are already seeing increased traffic.

He said approximately 15,000 additional vehicles have been using the I-95 tunnel each day since the collapse and approximately 7,000 additional vehicles have been using the I-895 tunnel.

He urged drivers to be patient and travel slowly to avoid creating more traffic issues.

Hazardous material

Moore and others reiterated that there is no public health threat from the cargo ship Dali or its contents.

Earlier reports of a “sheen” on the water raised concerns there may have been a fuel leak from the Dali. United States Coast Guard Rear Admiral Shannon Gilreath said the Coast Guard believes that sheen is coming from about 80 liters of oil that are associated with a bow thruster at the front of the ship that allows the vessel to maneuver.

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There is more than 2,000 feet of boom around the vessel to contain any leaks, Moore said.

Gilreath said there are 14 containers on the ship that contain hazardous material and that were in some way impacted by the crash. Those containers had “soap, perfume and resin material” Gilreath said. “Impacted,” he said, could mean the container is cracked open a little or more seriously damaged. He did not know how much of each material may have gone overboard.

Salvage and recovery

After days of rescue and recovery, four bodies remain missing. Officials said Thursday that divers can no longer safely search for the missing victims because the water is dark and filled with dangerous debris.

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Maryland State Police Superintendent Roland L. Butler, Jr. said sonar indicates there’s at least one “larger in size” vehicle that is totally encapsulated and trapped by debris from the bridge.

Moore called the work of salvaging the wreckage and reopening the channel “an incredibly complex challenge.”

“Our timeline will be long,” Moore said. But, the Army Corps of Engineers is mobilizing resources at “record speed” to help, he said.

Gov. Wes Moore, left, and Baltimore Mayor Brandon Scott survey the damage at the scene of the scene of the collapsed Francis Scott Key bridge. (Courtesy of Gov. Moore's Office/Handout)

Moore emphasized that it took five weeks to dislodge a container ship that got stuck in the Suez Canal in 2021. The Dali cargo ship is almost as long as the Eiffel Tower and the Dali has the Key Bridge on top of it, he added.

“We’re talking 3,000 to 4000 tons of steel that’s sitting on top of that ship,” Moore said. “We’ve got work to do while we’re moving.”

Gilreath said officials would have to complete an assessment process of the debris and ship in order to safely begin removal work. First, they will clear debris from the channel. Second, they will remove the Dali cargo ship. And third, they will remove the rest of the debris, he said.

“Our number one priority is to reopen the port of Baltimore as fast as we can and do it safely,” Gilreath said.

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