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PBS NewsHour | Maryland Governor on Complicated Baltimore Bridge Reconstruction | 2024 season

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GEOFF BENNETT: President Biden visited the site of the collapsed Francis Scott Key Bridge in Baltimore this afternoon# and got a first-hand look at the cleanup and recovery efforts to reopen one of the nation's most important shipping hubs.

The deadly collapse killed six workers last week who were filling potholes on the bridge when a container ship crashed into one of its pillars.

President Biden met with the victims' families and reiterated his commitment to the people of Baltimore.

He is calling on Congress to pay the full cost of rebuilding the bridge.

JOE BIDEN, President of the United States: Everyone, including Congress, should ask just one question. And this question will be asked by your delegation.

How can we help?

How can we solve this problem?

My government is absolutely committed to ensuring that the party responsible for this tragedy pays to repair the damage and is held accountable to the fullest extent permitted by law.

GEOFF BENNETT: Maryland Governor Wes Moore was with President Biden today and he joins us now.

Governor, thank you for being with us,# and welcome back to the NewsHour.

GOV.

WES MOORE (D-MD): Thank you.

Nice to be with you.

GEOFF BENNETT: So the US Army Corps of# Engineers has announced a schedule. Open this channel in Baltimore by the end of April and fully reopen it by the end of May.

But what challenges and obstacles remain that could stand in the way of this ambitious schedule?

GOV.

WES MOORE: Well, this is probably one of the most significant maritime tragedies we've seen in recent history.

Because what we have here is a situation,## in addition to the six tragic lives that were## lost – and we continue to have their families in our prayers – we also have a situation that is unprecedented, a situation# , in which you have a ship that is the size,## literally the size of the Eiffel Tower# and the weight of the Washington Monument##, which now lies in the middle of the# Patapsco River and has the Key Bridge,## an iconic one Bridge This has been around as long as I've been alive, and now it's sitting on top.

They have about 27,000 tons of debris now in the water.

So it's a remarkably complicated process to navigate and do this.

We were grateful to work hand in hand with the Army Corps# of Engineers, Coast Guard, Navy SUPSALV and Maryland State Police divers.

So it was a complete coordination of assets at the federal, state and local levels.

And while we are grateful that the Army Corps of Engineers has set an aggressive schedule, we know it will take all hands on deck.

We know it will continue to be a 24/7 operation.

And we know that we will continue to marshal all the resources necessary to provide comfort to families, reopen channels, ensure we take care of our employees and get the key bridge rebuilt.

GEOFF BENNETT: The shutdown obviously has an impact on the national economy.

What consequences will a prolonged closure of this port have on Maryland's economy?

And are you worried that shippers and suppliers could permanently switch to ports in New Jersey and New York, for example?

GOV.

WES MOORE: Well, I'm very concerned, not just about what it's going to mean for Maryland's economy, but what it's going to mean for the country's economy.

This will hurt Kentucky farmers because that country's largest port for farm equipment is the Port of Baltimore.

This will hurt the Ohio automaker, as that country's largest port for new cars and heavy trucks is the Port of Baltimore.

This will hurt the restaurant owner in Tennessee since the largest port for spices and sugar in the country is the Port of Baltimore.

So not only will this have a significant #impact on Maryland's economy.

It will have a significant impact on our economy.

But # that's one of the reasons we've been working around the clock and we're also so grateful # for the support we've received from companies.

So today, for example, we just launched something called the Maryland Tough Baltimore## Strong Alliance, which has now been joined by over 80 companies#, some of which have already joined but have stated that they will not lay off# workers or say they will not redirect their products, and even if they have to do it temporarily, they will return to Baltimore.

It was truly inspiring to see how the community, including the business community, rallied around Maryland and Baltimore at this moment.

GEOFF BENNETT: As you mentioned, six men died in the collapse of… How are their families doing and what, if anything, is ## being done to support them as they are probably ##not ##about this have resources to endure the kinds of #tragedies that have befallen them?

GOV.

WES MOORE: Our hearts continue to break for these families.

And I remember having the opportunity to meet the families for the first time when it was still a search and rescue operation. And I told them we would spare no expense and do everything in our power – using air, land and sea resources – to bring their family members home.

And even though this mission has now morphed into a recovery mission, which is really about how do we provide these families with a sense of closure, I promise the same thing, that we will use all of our resources to provide these families with a sense of closure and comfort to convey.

These are men who went to work and had no idea that the work they were doing, while dangerous, had no idea that it would be deadly. The same goes for their families.

So we will ## make sure we wrap our arms around them and not only lift them up in prayer, ## but also make sure we have support on the ground for them, their families and their children.

That's why I've actually introduced legislation to provide scholarships and support to the families of these fallen workers.

GEOFF BENNETT: And finally, Governor, ## how did this incident make you ## think differently about regulating and inspecting ## existing bridges and ultimately # design the Key Bridge differently?

GOV.

WES MOORE: Well, I came in knowing that keeping our people safe was always my top priority.

Nothing is more important.

And that includes our critical infrastructure.

This also includes how people move.

And so we've ## always put a very aggressive push to ## make sure we have a hard time – to fortify ## critical infrastructure, roads, bridges, tunnels, ## so that people can actually feel safe# from their can move to where they work, ## where they live, ## where they worship, # # where they live, ## where they go to school.

And we will ensure that this process continues.

And I know,## since there is a comprehensive investigation underway by the NTSB into what exactly happened in this situation,## I not only encourage that investigation,## I want it to be a speedy investigation.

And if there are people who need to be held accountable for the disaster that we saw here in Baltimore, then I want people to be held accountable.

Therefore, it is a top priority to ensure that we have a solid and critical infrastructure,## but also to ensure that we learn from the lessons and have a clear responsibility to the people,## especially in this situation I think this is crucial.

GEOFF BENNETT: That's Maryland Governor Wes Moore.

Governor, we appreciate you making time for us this evening.

Thank you very much.

GOV.

WES MOORE: God bless you.

Thank you very much.