Key Bridge collapse: Largest channel opens for 24/7 traffic to Port of Baltimore

BALTIMORE — Crews on Tuesday opened the largest channel yet allowing for access to the Port of Baltimore weeks after a cargo ship hit the Francis Scott Key Bridge, killing six people and blocking the path to the port.

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The Fort McHenry Limited Access Channel has been opened with 24-hour availability to commercial vessel traffic, the Port of Baltimore announced in a statement. The channel has a depth of 50 feet, a horizontal clearance of 400 feet and a vertical clearance of 214 feet, making it the largest channel to open in the area since the March 26 bridge collapse.

“Deep draft traffic has priority use of this channel,” port officials said on Tuesday. “Tug and barge traffic should make maximum use of the three Temporary Alternate Channels.”

They added that the port’s permanent, 700-foot-wide channel remains on track to reopen by the end of the month.

The newest channel opened after crews refloated and moved the cargo ship Dali in an hours-long process that involved breaking a piece of truss that had fallen on the ship into smaller pieces with explosive charges. The Dali had been trapped in the Patapsco River since it hit the bridge in March after authorities said it lost power.

“I’m very moved by the fact that I can now look out over the Patapsco River and not see the Dali anymore. It’s a beautiful sight,” Gov. Wes Moore said Tuesday, according to WJZ-TV. “I will not be satisfied until I can look over at the same site and see the Francis Scott Key bridge standing again.”

About 500 commercial vessels have passed through temporary channels opened to the Port of Baltimore since the bridge collapse, Coast Guard Rear Adm. Shannon Gilreath said Monday, according to the Baltimore Sun. He added that work to clear wreckage outside the federal channel is expected to wrap up “sometime in June,” the newspaper reported.

Crews have been working to clear tons of debris left in the water after the March crash. The bridge collapse blocked ships from accessing the Port of Baltimore, a key automobile hub for the U.S.

Authorities continue to investigate the cause of the crash.

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