WASHINGTON, D.C. — On July 10, 2024, the Senate Environment and Public Works (EPW) Committee will hold a hearing on the state and federal response to the collapse of the Francis Scott Key Bridge in Baltimore, Maryland. The hearing will examine the unified response to the collapse of the bridge and the effort to reopen the Port of Baltimore, as well as next steps in the bridge rebuild process.

Below is the opening statement of Chairman Tom Carper (D-Del.), as prepared for delivery:

“As you know, we are here to discuss the state and federal response to the collapse of the Francis Scott Key Bridge in Baltimore, Maryland three months ago. I’d like to thank our three witnesses for joining us today. I would also like to thank Senator Cardin and Senator Van Hollen who — not surprisingly — have been tireless advocates for their state.

As we all know, the Key Bridge collapsed in the early hours of March 26th when a cargo ship that had lost power struck one of the bridge’s support piers, setting off an all-hands-on-deck response. Our hearts go out to the families, the friends and the communities of the six men who lost their lives while working on the bridge that night.

“For leaders here in Congress, in the executive branch and across all levels of government, the collapse of the Key Bridge was a wake-up call. After the collapse of the Key Bridge, it came to light that of the 4,000 bridges in the U.S. that allow ships to pass under them, two-thirds lack functional pier protection.

“Many of our colleagues have heard me frequently quote Albert Einstein who used to say that in adversity lies opportunity. I hope that today’s hearing will serve as an opportunity for us to discuss the lessons learned from this tragedy and the immediate response. We’ll also discuss the path that lies ahead to help rebuild the bridge and consider how we can prevent tragedies like this from happening in the future in America.

“During this hearing, we will explore the effort to reopen the port and remove debris from the shipping channel. Then, we will assess the effects of the bridge’s collapse on Baltimore’s communities and its economy. And finally, we will discuss next steps in the recovery and rebuild process.

“First, though, we are going to examine the response efforts that began from the moment that authorities learned the Dali had lost its steering capabilities. As you’ll recall, before the bridge fell, emergency responders acted quickly to close the bridge to additional traffic, saving lives by keeping vehicles off of the bridge. Within hours, the Coast Guard and the Army Corps of Engineers took steps to protect the people on board the vessel and to prevent further damage.

“Working hand in glove, the federal, state and local agencies then stabilized the remaining structural pieces of the bridge and cleared debris from the shipping channel. Thanks in no small part to the expert work of the Unified Command, the Port of Baltimore was fully reopened in two months.

“Along with a group of local, state and federal leaders including General Spellmon and the Governor and Lieutenant Governor of Maryland, and members of my staff, I recently visited the Key Bridge. During the visit we learned more about the incredible work that has gone into the recovery and salvage efforts to date. I also had the opportunity to thank a number of the federal, state and local leaders who worked together to immediately and effectively respond to this disaster. We are deeply grateful to the men and women who risked their lives during this operation and worked around the clock to reopen the channel.

“In light of this success, I want to commend our witnesses here today. I also want to commend Colonel Estee Pinchasin, Commander of the Baltimore District, who has joined us here as well. She has demonstrated remarkable leadership throughout this disaster response.

“Next, we will assess the impact the collapse has had on Baltimore’s communities and economy. Thousands of people have had their lives disrupted and the economic impacts of this disaster are still being felt across Baltimore and the state of Maryland.

“Prior to its collapse, more than 30,000 vehicles traveled over the Key Bridge each day. Many of the trucks carrying cargo in and out of the Port of Baltimore had to be rerouted onto roads in nearby neighborhoods, which has worsened air quality in surrounding communities. As the response efforts continue, it is essential that we address the far-reaching effects of this disaster on the city and on the region.

“Finally, with debris removal nearly complete and the federal channel back in full operation, much of the work remaining to be done will now focus on rebuilding the bridge. Planning efforts are still underway, and rebuilding the bridge will be an immense effort that will very likely require continued collaboration between state, federal and local agencies for years to come.

“Rebuilding the bridge is also expected to be a large financial undertaking. President Biden has committed the resources of the federal government to help Maryland rebuild. With that said, Administrator Bhatt testified before this committee last month that the proceeds of insurance payments and other future claims will be used to reimburse the federal government for a considerable portion of the cost of rebuilding the bridge.

“Today’s hearing probably could not have come at a more opportune time. The president has just submitted a supplemental appropriations request to Congress. The $3.1 billion in emergency response funding that the president requested for the Department of Transportation would support efforts to address this disaster and a number of other disasters that have not yet received assistance. That includes a major mudslide in Jackson, Wyoming, as well as tragic losses in Maui last year and other recent disasters across the United States. Passing the supplemental will be the most expedient path to address not only the needs of Baltimore but also the needs of a number of other states awaiting assistance.

“In closing, I believe that when all levels of government work together to safeguard and invest in our infrastructure, it makes our communities better, stronger and safer. And, I believe that it is our shared responsibility to make these investments.

“There is no doubt that we still have significant work ahead of us to continue to build and rebuild the infrastructure that America will need for the 21st century. We look forward to hearing from our witnesses about the coordinated response to the events that transpired on March 26th and the work that still lies ahead to rebuild the Key Bridge.