There are plans to create a temporary alternate channel near the collapsed Francis Scott Key Bridge that will allow commercial vessels to access the port.

The channel will span the northeast side of the bridge, which fell into the Patapsco River after a cargo ship crashed into it early Tuesday, stunning the world and sparking concerns over the local economics of a closed port.

“This will mark an important first step along the road to reopening the port of Baltimore,” said Capt. David O’Connell, the coordinator of the federal response to the bridge collapse, in a statement Sunday evening. “By opening this alternate route, we will support the flow of marine traffic into Baltimore.”

Federal officials did not immediately respond to a question about when the alternate channel is expected to open.

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In a news release, officials said the temporary channel will have a controlling depth of 11 feet, vertical clearance of 96 feet and a 264-foot horizontal clearance. By comparison, the Dali, the cargo ship that crashed into the Francis Scott Key Bridge, is about 158 feet wide and 984 feet long.

Federal officials are operating a 2,000-yard safety zone around the Francis Scott Key Bridge. Vessels must continue to receive permission to enter the zone.

The response team has requested that mariners monitor VHF channel 16 for the latest information.

Additionally, a hotline for the public to report debris from the collapse has been established. Residents can call 410-205-6625 to report debris they encounter.

The Key Bridge collapse cut off every port dock from the global shipping industry, except for Tradepoint Atlantic on Sparrows Point. Until federal officials open the temporary channel, Tradepoint Atlantic is the part of the global shipping industry operating in Baltimore. The deepwater port has a 50-foot channel and connections to major railways.

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More than 15,000 people are directly employed at the Port of Baltimore. In a White House press briefing Wednesday, U.S. Transportation Secretary Pete Buttigieg estimated that 8,000 of them will be out of work until it reopens, costing about $2 million in lost wages each day.

This article may be updated.

Emily Sullivan covers Baltimore City Hall. She joined the Banner after three years at WYPR, where she won multiple awards for her radio stories on city politics and culture. She previously reported for NPR’s national airwaves, focusing on business news and breaking news.

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