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Following Baltimore bridge collapse, officials express confidence in CT's bridges

TOPSHOT - The steel frame of the Francis Scott Key Bridge sits on top of the container ship Dali after the bridge collapsed, Baltimore, Maryland, on March 26, 2024. The bridge collapsed early March 26 after being struck by the Singapore-flagged Dali, sending multiple vehicles and people plunging into the frigid harbor below. There was no immediate confirmation of the cause of the disaster, but Baltimore's Police Commissioner Richard Worley said there was "no indication" of terrorism.
Jim Watson
A container ship rests against wreckage of the Francis Scott Key Bridge on Tuesday, March 26, 2024, as seen from Sparrows Point, Md. The ship rammed into the major bridge in Baltimore early Tuesday, causing it to collapse in a matter of seconds and creating a terrifying scene as several vehicles plunged into the chilly river below.

A bridge collapse like the one in Baltimore is much less likely to happen in Connecticut, state officials say. That's because the state does not have bridges like the one that fell in Maryland.

Gov. Ned Lamont said he has confidence in bridge conditions in Connecticut in light of Tuesday morning's collapse of the Francis Scott Key Bridge.

“We have protections around a lot of our support struts,” Lamont told reporters Tuesday afternoon. “And we're taking a special look to see if there's anything else we should be doing. We don't have a bridge anywhere near as vulnerable as what you saw down in Baltimore.”

Six people were missing and two were rescued in Baltimore when the bridge collapsed after a cargo ship rammed into a support column.

Connecticut does not have bridges similar to the Key Bridge, said Josh Morgan, spokesperson for the Connecticut Department of Transportation.

"The state’s bridges have fenders installed for protection from vessel impact and/or have tight navigational controls for vertical clearances, making a similar event in Connecticut significantly much less likely," Morgan said in an email. "The redundant systems we have in place protects our bridges from the marine traffic on Connecticut waterways."

Morgan said the vessels seen in Connecticut are "much smaller in scale" compared to the supertankers seen in ports in Baltimore or New York.

Lamont notes the Baltimore bridge is made of metal and that many of Connecticut’s bridges include concrete underpinnings, “so they’re a lot stronger, a lot sturdier.”

FILE: In January 2023, Governor Ned Lamont appeared with Secretary of Transportation Pete Buttigieg to celebrate a $158 million federal grant to repair and update the Gold Star Memorial Bridge in New London.
Tyler Russell
Connecticut Public
FILE: In January 2023, Governor Ned Lamont appeared with Secretary of Transportation Pete Buttigieg to celebrate a $158 million federal grant to repair and update the Gold Star Memorial Bridge in New London.

He said state officials have been talking “in terms of buffers and protections we have around some of those struts to make sure they couldn't get hit by a barge, the likes of which happened down in Baltimore. So we’re on top of this.”

Lamont said bridge safety has been on the minds of Connecticut officials for decades, noting a bridge collapse in Greenwich in 1983. That’s when a portion of Interstate 95 fell into the Mianus River, killing three people and injuring three more.

Currently, about 5% of bridges across Connecticut are considered to be in “poor” condition, according to federal data. But compared to other states, Connecticut is not an outlier in its share of bridges in bad shape.

According to a state report from 2022, Connecticut would need to invest about $900 million more each year to meet a common industry benchmark for bridges — called “state of good repair.”

Connecticut Public's Michayla Savitt, Bria Lloyd and Eric Aasen contributed to this report.