The Key Bridge’s modest concrete dolphins couldn’t stop the 984-foot cargo ship, but safeguards strong enough to do so would be impractical, experts say.

Construction Dive

March 28, 2024

1 Min Read
Tasos Katopodis via Getty Images

Baltimore’s Key Bridge had protections in place, but not ones sufficient to stop a head-on collision from a cargo ship like the one that occurred Tuesday, according to civil engineering experts. 

The bridge, which collapsed into the Patapsco River Tuesday after one of its load-bearing piers was struck by the container ship Dali, appeared to have concrete dolphins, also known as pilings or bollards, in place to protect it, according to experts who examined photos of the site.

“So the protections are that you have those bollards strategically placed around the pier so you don’t have a direct impact,” K.N. Gunalan, a senior vice president at AECOM and past president of the American Society of Civil Engineers, told Construction Dive. “[The Key Bridge] had some protections but not to withstand an impact of this size.”

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