Grassley says Baltimore bridge collapse could be ‘catastrophic’ for shipping out Iowa goods

WASHINGTON — This week’s deadly collapse of Baltimore’s Francis Scott Key Bridge may have significant ripple effects in Iowa, as that Maryland port is a vital link in the supply chain for getting Iowa’s commodities and a range of products to overseas markets.

Iowa US Senator Chuck Grassley says he’s concerned that as long as that port is blocked by the wreckage and out of commission, the effects will be widespread.  “There’s a lot of heavy manufacturing and even some grain leaving Iowa through the Baltimore port,” Grassley says, “so it’s going to have a catastrophic impact on the economy.”

Grassley says it’s possible Iowa companies that need to ship their commodities or products overseas via the East Coast can use another port, but most of them are farther away which would likely mean higher costs.  “There’s alternatives, but those alternatives, like Philadelphia, someplace in New Jersey, maybe New York, are possibilities, maybe even Charleston, South Carolina,” Grassley says, “but it’s just going to be a detrimental impact and it’s not going to be short term.”

It’s still unclear how many people died when the bridge fell, perhaps six. Recovery operations are underway. There are calls for Congress to pass an emergency spending measure to pay for rebuilding the bridge, which collapsed early Tuesday after a support tower was slammed by a massive cargo ship, which was apparently malfunctioning. “I would vote yes on this,” Grassley says. “One question we have, is there any insurance that the shipping company might have that ought to pay for that bridge? I think it’s worth looking into, so we don’t spend the taxpayers’ money. If somebody’s at fault for doing this and they have insurance, they ought to pay for it.”

Early estimates say rebuilding the bridge could cost $2 billion and take a minimum of two years, possibly much longer.