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Nii Attoh-Okine, chair of the University of Maryland’s civil and environmental engineering department, led the roundtable.

Nii Attoh-Okine, chair of the University of Maryland’s civil and environmental engineering department, led the roundtable.


Engineering experts from around the country gathered at the University of Maryland (UMD) on May 22 to share insights about the March 26 collapse of Baltimore’s Key Bridge and to provide recommendations on protecting bridges and other infrastructure.

During a day-long roundtable, “Lessons Learned From the Francis Scott Key Bridge Collapse: Enhancing Resilience in Critical Infrastructure Systems,” they discussed ideas that spanned bridge design, management of port traffic, improved communication systems, and utilization of sensors and other emerging technologies. The roundtable was co-sponsored by the American Society of Civil Engineers (ASCE).

Nii Attoh-Okine, chair of the UMD civil and environmental engineering department, led the event, which drew more than 120 attendees to UMD’s College Park campus.

 The wider impacts of the collapse must be examined along with the incident itself, Attoh-Okine stressed in his opening remarks, describing the loss of the bridge as a “multi-dimensional event involving multiple systems.”

The collapse, which occurred when a cargo ship, Dali, struck one of the bridge’s support piers, temporarily shut down the port of Baltimore, which is among the top 20 ports in the nation in terms of tonnage and cargo handled. According to the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, it is the country’s largest importer and exporter of vehicles, with 800,000 vehicles transported through it in 2023, and is the second largest exporter of coal.

More than 120 guests attended the roundtable, which featured 25 speakers and six panel sessions.

As local, state, and federal governments respond, the ideas and information exchanged at the roundtable can help chart the path forward, Attoh-Okine said. A follow-up report to be drafted in the coming weeks will be shared with decision-makers and policy advisors at the state and federal levels. Some were already present at the roundtable, including Jean Mattei, a member of the Biden administration’s National Industrial Advisory Council.

The speakers and panelists included four members of the National Academy of Engineering (NAE): Chris Hendrickson, professor emeritus at Carnegie-Mellon; Craig Philip, research professor at Vanderbilt University; Azad Madni, Northrop Grumman Foundation Fred O'Green chair and professor at the University of Southern California; and Victor Lawrence, Bell Laboratories.

Stephen Spoljaric of Bechtel Corporation and structural engineering consultant Scott Greenhaus also spoke at the event, along with faculty members from colleges and universities across the country, including Georgia Tech, Princeton, Purdue, and the University of Virginia. 

 Selected Media 

Dr. Nii-Attoh Okine, chair of the UMD civil and environmental engineering department, discussed the Key Bridge collapse with national and international media outlets, including the following.

Architectural Digest, "What Caused the Baltimore Bridge to Collapse And Are Other Bridges In Danger?"

Baltimore Banner, "How long will it take to replace the Key Bridge? Engineers stress need to do it 'right'"

Baltimore Sun, "Estimates on rebuilding the Key Bridge range from 2 to 15 years"

BBC, Interview with Dr. Nii Attoh-Okine (1)

BBC, Interview with Dr. Nii Attoh-Okine (2)

Canadian Broadcasting Corporation, "CBC News Network's Andrew Nichols speaks with professor of environmental engineering Nii O Attoh-Okine"

LBC, "Shocking new video shows Baltimore bridge collapse as rescuers race to find six missing people who plunged into river"

National Geographic, "Will Baltimore bridge collapse force U.S. to pay more attention to its infrastructure?"

New York Magazine, "How to Understand the Baltimore Bridge Collapse"

New York Times, "Force of Ship Impact Was on the Scale of a Rocket Launch"

Sky News, "Civil engineering professor speaks about cause of Baltimore bridge collapse"

USA Today, "Why did Francis Scott Key bridge collapse so catastrophically? It didn't stand a chance"

Vox, "The Baltimore bridge collapse and its potential consequences, explained"

WIRED, "The Baltimore bridge collapse Is about to get even messier"

WUSA, "'Lessons learned from Key Bridge disaster': expert panel at UMD takes hard look at tough lessons" and "After the Key Bridge collapsed, fears flounder for the Bay Bridge."

June 3, 2024

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