Reviewing and Examining the Francis Scott Key Bridge Federal Response

2167 Rayburn House Office Building

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0 Wednesday, May 15, 2024 @ 10:00 | Contact: Justin Harclerode 202-225-9446

This a hearing of  the full Committee on Transportation and Infrastructure.

Witness list: 
  • Vice Admiral Peter Gautier, Deputy Commandant for Operations, United States Coast Guard | Witness Testimony
  • Major General William (Butch) H. Graham, Deputy Commanding General, Civil and Emergency Operations, United States Army Corps of Engineers | Witness Testimony
  • Hon. Shailen Bhatt, Administrator, Federal Highway Administration, United States Department of Transportation | Witness Testimony
  • Hon. Jennifer Homendy, Chair, National Transportation Safety Board | Witness Testimony

Opening remarks, as prepared, of Transportation and Infrastructure Committee Chairman Sam Graves (R-MO) from hearing, entitled “Reviewing and Examining the Francis Scott Key Bridge Federal Response”:

We are here today to discuss the initial federal response to the March 26, 2024, early morning incident involving the cargo vessel Dali and the Francis Scott Key Bridge in Baltimore, Maryland, that resulted in the subsequent collapse of the bridge.

I first want to acknowledge the six workers who sadly perished that morning. On behalf of the entire Committee, I want to express our condolences and offer our prayers to their families and loved ones.

I also want to express the Committee’s appreciation to the harbor pilot and Maryland Transportation Authority police officers who saved countless lives by closing the Key Bridge prior to the incident, and to all first responders involved.

Finally, I want to commend the federal, state, and local officials working day and night to clear the wreckage and debris and to reopen the shipping channel that supports the Port of Baltimore. This committee continues to receive updates from federal agencies that are responding to and investigating the incident, including those testifying here today.

Hours after the collapse, President Biden announced his intention for the federal government to pay for the entire cost of reconstructing the Key Bridge.  This committee has received a letter from the Administration officially requesting that Congress authorize a 100 percent federal cost share to rebuild the bridge, and I have personally spoken to Governor Moore about this request.

On March 28, the State of Maryland applied for funding from the Federal Highway Administration’s Emergency Relief Program, commonly called ER.  Within hours of receiving the Maryland Department of Transportation’s application, the Federal Highway Administration approved $60 million in “quick release” funding, which it said represented roughly five percent of the initial estimated total project cost of $1.2 billion.

This funding is intended to assist with eligible repair work, which includes emergency repairs needed to restore essential travel, minimize damage, or protect the remaining facilities, as well as permanent repairs necessary to restore the highway to its pre-disaster condition. 

Under the ER program, the federal government will reimburse the state for qualifying work at 100 percent federal cost for the first 270 days. After the initial 270 days, states get reimbursed at 80 or 90 percent rate, depending on classification, and the program also provides flexibility to allow for reimbursement of up to 90 percent in some cases. This past Friday, May 10th, the Federal Highway Administration informed the Committee that they had designated the portion of I-695 that includes the bridge as part of the Interstate System effective April 29th, meaning that Maryland’s reimbursement rate is now guaranteed to be at 90 percent.

All that is to say, while the President’s request has been received and is under consideration, Congress still has roughly six months to act before any cost share changes would occur. Despite initial estimates of $1.2 billion to rebuild the bridge, media reports now indicate that the State of Maryland estimates that the bridge rebuild may cost between $1.7 billion and $1.9 billion. 

It is important that we have a firmer estimate before we take any further actions on the cost share. In addition, if the company that owned and operated the ship is found to be liable, we must make sure that the government actively works to recover any money it is owed. That could help offset the bridge funding or be used to make the people and companies who rely on and work at the Baltimore Harbor whole.

Several Members of this committee have visited the site with our federal partners, and for those who wish to go up there and see it for themselves, the Committee will continue to facilitate visits on a regular basis.

At this stage, we need to make sure we are not getting ahead of the facts, and let the NTSB and other agencies complete their investigations. But as we continue to learn more, we will ensure that Members of Congress have all available information.

I thank all four witnesses for being here today, and I look forward to your testimonies.

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