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Congress should help Maryland rebuild the Key Bridge

OpinionCongress should help Maryland rebuild the Key Bridge

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The Francis Scott Key Bridge watched over Baltimore City for 52 years. When it collapsed on March 26, a piece of the Baltimore skyline and Maryland spirit plunged into the river below.

But Maryland rallied. First responders, elected officials, CEOs, philanthropists, village elders and community champions came together from across the state and around the country to help us. 

We’ve focused our shared efforts on bringing closure to the victims’ families, reopening the Port of Baltimore to vessel traffic, supporting everyone affected by the economic fallout from the collapse, and rebuilding the Key Bridge.

collapsed bridge

Emergency boats work near the collapsed section of the Francis Scott Key Bridge, after the Dali cargo vessel crashed into it, in Baltimore, March 27, 2024. (Reuters/Mike Segar)

But to complete the mission, we need the help of the U.S. Congress. We write to urge the House and Senate to come together and help us come back from this disaster and rebuild the Francis Scott Key Bridge.

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The Key Bridge collapse isn’t just a Maryland crisis; it’s a national crisis. The Port of Baltimore handles more cars and more farm equipment than any other port in the country. 

When the bridge fell, it affected thousands of Maryland workers and small business owners who have jobs linked to the port. It also affected the farmer in Kentucky, the auto worker in Michigan and the restaurant owner in Tennessee. 

This is a national priority, and our national government must respond. 

In a politically divided Washington, getting support from both chambers of Congress would require the two parties working together. We recognize that many Americans have grown cynical to the possibility of bipartisanship. In this era of division and vitriol, the very notion of Democrats and Republicans uniting behind a common goal might feel impossible. 

BALTIMORE BRIDGE COLLAPSE SURVIVOR ‘FOUGHT FOR THIS LIFE’ AFTER CAR PLUNGED INTO RIVER

But the two of us – one a Democrat governor, the other a Republican member of Congress – believe that partnership is possible. Our joint message is a reminder that the promise of bipartisanship isn’t just a rosy ideal: It’s a reality in times of crisis. 

Response crews begin removing shipping containers from the deck of the cargo ship Dali using a floating crane barge at the site of the Francis Scott Key Bridge

Response crews begin removing shipping containers from the deck of the cargo ship Dali at the site of the Francis Scott Key Bridge, April 7, 2024, in Baltimore. (Key Bridge Response 2024 Unified Command via AP)

Even during seasons of deep polarization, lawmakers on both sides of the aisle have often put aside their differences to lift Americans reeling from tragedy. It’s part of our American heritage. 

On Aug. 1, 2007, the I-35W Mississippi River Bridge in Minneapolis collapsed. Democrats had majorities in the House and the Senate. They worked with a Republican governor and a Republican president to provide $250 million in emergency funding days after the bridge fell. 

Now, Congress must come together again – across party lines – and act with the same level of urgency and partnership as they have in the past.

SECOND TEMPORARY CHANNEL OPENED, ROUGH WEATHER SLOWS DEBRIS REMOVAL

Baltimore Francis Scott Key Bridge site

Wreckage of the Key Bridge rests on the Dali, as President Biden takes an aerial tour of the collapse in Baltimore, April 5, 2024. (AP Photo/Manuel Balce Ceneta)

In our Maryland, partnership is more than a talking point – it’s a governing philosophy. Local, state and federal leaders on both sides of the aisle have come together like never before in the wake of the collapse. We’ve met frequently to build out our response, and our congressional delegation recently introduced bipartisan legislation to ensure 100% federal support for replacing the Key Bridge.

We are ready to work with anyone to enhance the lives of our fellow Marylanders, regardless of which side of the aisle they occupy. So to members of the House and Senate, our message is simple: Work with us. 

Sit down with our congressional delegation. Meet with leaders in state government. Get up close to the wreckage. See just what it looks like when a massive steel bridge falls on top of a shipping vessel the size of the Eiffel Tower. 

Get to know some of the 30,000 commuters, truckers and entrepreneurs who traveled across the bridge every day. Meet with one of the 8,000 port workers who have jobs directly affected by this tragedy. Speak to some of the mom-and-pop lunch counters where longshoremen aren’t eating today because they’ve been laid off.

UNDERWATER 3D IMAGES SHOW MANGLED REMAINS OF FRANCIS SCOTT KEY BRIDGE

Then, you will understand the full importance of rebuilding the Key Bridge as quickly as possible – for the sake of our nation’s people, our nation’s economy and our nation’s spirit.

Our work to clear the wreckage and rebuild the Key Bridge won’t happen in days or weeks. We have a long road ahead. But we must walk it together. The Francis Scott Key Bridge collapse isn’t a Republican tragedy or a Democrat tragedy. And the solution won’t be partisan. 

As we work to rebuild the Key Bridge, accountability is also vital. The National Transportation Safety Board is investigating the events that led to the bridge collapse. We will closely review the findings of that investigation once they’re out, and the two of us agree that American taxpayers shouldn’t be held ultimately responsible for costs that any negligent, third party should pay. 

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But accountability and action aren’t mutually exclusive: We must pursue both at the same time.

We can win this moment by working together. And with the support of the United States Congress, Americans of this generation and the next will look up, once again, and see the Francis Scott Key Bridge standing tall – this time as a symbol of partnership over partisanship.

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Rep. Andy Harris, a Republican, represents Maryland’s 1st Congressional District.

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