Key Bridge Collision Raises Concerns About Pier Protection in Baltimore

The collapse of Baltimore's Key Bridge brings to mind lessons learned from Tampa's Sunshine Skyway disaster in 1980. With only one small protective dolphin, the Key Bridge may not have been updated to meet modern standards. Engineers and attorneys are calling for stronger protections to prevent future tragedies.
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The collapse of Baltimore’s Francis Scott Key Bridge due to a collision with the boxship Dali has raised concerns about the level of protection around bridge piers. The incident has drawn comparisons to the 1980 disaster at Tampa’s Sunshine Skyway Bridge, where 35 people died when a freighter struck the structure. The Skyway Bridge was rebuilt with reinforced concrete dolphins, but it is unclear if similar measures were taken at the Key Bridge before the recent collision.

The Key Bridge, which opened in 1977, had limited protection around its piers, with only small dolphins on each side. Experts have expressed concern that these structures may not have been sufficient to withstand impact from a large cargo ship like the Dali. The incident has highlighted the need for stronger protective measures around bridge piers in busy shipping channels.

The maritime industry has long recognized the risks posed by collisions between vessels and bridge structures. Lessons from past disasters, such as the Skyway Bridge collapse, have led to updated standards for bridge protection. As the investigation into the Key Bridge incident unfolds, legal experts anticipate that the level of protection around the pier may become a focal point in determining liability and ensuring the safety of future bridge structures.

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