Key Bridge Collapse Leads to Long Commutes in Baltimore

March 28, 2024
Rebuilding the bridge is crucial to the region’s economy

The collapse of the Francis Scott Key Bridge in Baltimore and the closure of the port means longer commutes for residents, as it cuts off a major artery in and out of the city.

The portion of Interstate-695 that contains the Key Bridge wasn't the most heavily traveled road segment around Baltimore, but it accommodated thousands of vehicles between 7 a.m. and 8 a.m. on an average weekday last year, according to INRIX.

Maryland transit authorities have placed detours for the thousands of motorists who travel through Dundalk or the Curtis Bay/Hawkins Point side of the bridge.

For the foreseeable future, roads and highways around the city will be congested. Tunnels will be clogged with traffic.

The estimated 31,000 who travel the bridge each day will need to find a new route for the foreseeable future, which will cause headaches and delays.

The outer loop I-695 closure shifted to exit 1/Quarantine Road (past the Curtis Creek Drawbridge) to allow for enhanced local traffic access. 

The inner loop of I-695 remains closed at MD 157 (Peninsula Expressway). Additionally, the ramp from State Route 157 to the inner loop of I-695 will be closed. 

Maryland resident Becky Grimes, who works at an Amazon warehouse near the eastern end of the Francis Scott Key Bridge, told NPR that the bridge’s collapse changed how she commutes to work.

She normally takes the Key Bridge to and from work, but it now takes an extra half hour each way to drive through Baltimore instead of around it.

"I'm not looking forward to it," she said to NPR. "There's a lot of people that already want to transfer out."

The container ship Dali and the fallen bridge are still blocking the Port of Baltimore, which means the regional economy will take a blow, as well. Ships can’t enter Baltimore are being redirected to other ports, like Newark and Philadelphia.

The Key Bridge is a toll bridge that generated 7% of the total revenue for the Maryland Transportation Authority last year, according to an analysis by Moody’s.

Brent Howard, president of the Baltimore County Chamber of Commerce, said opening the port and rebuilding the bridge are vital to the region.

"We're the Chesapeake," Howard said. "Baltimore is really connected to the port and connected to water and connected to ships and vessels. That's something that's always been intrinsic to Baltimore's history, going back to our inception."

Daraius Irani, an economist at Towson University, estimates that the port's closure is costing between $10 million and $15 million a day in lost economic activity. And at least another $1 million a day in state and local taxes won't be collected while the port is closed.

However, Irani says the port should make a comeback. Baltimore’s port is a day further inland than others on the Eastern seaboard. If the port remains closed for months, he thinks there could be furloughs, but doesn’t expect layoffs.


Sources: NPR, CNN, CBS News

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