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Theres a long road ahead to cleaning up Baltimores Key Bridge collapse: Not quick or easy or cheap

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(WASHINGTON) — In the wake of the Francis Scott Key Bridge’s partial collapse in Baltimore on Tuesday, “Rebuilding will not be quick or easy or cheap,” Transportation Secretary Pete Buttigieg said.

“But we will get it done,” he told reporters at a White House press briefing on Wednesday.

Buttigieg reiterated the federal government’s support for recovery, cleanup and construction efforts in the months — and perhaps years — to come but also acknowledged there will be logistic obstacles.

“It’s not going to be simple,” the transportation secretary said.

The original bridge took some five years to complete, he noted.

“That does not necessarily mean it will take five years to replace, but that tells you what went into that original structure going up,” he said, adding, “We need to get a sense of the conditions, of the parts that look OK to the naked eye, but we just don’t know yet, especially in terms of their foundational infrastructure.”

“This will be a long and difficult path,” he said, “but we will come together and rebuild.”

Buttigieg said that he didn’t yet have a precise price tag for the rebuild but stressed that there are ways for the federal government to begin providing emergency funding right away to aid the recovery.

“We don’t have dollar estimates yet, but we actually have provisions that allow us to begin releasing funding even while that is being determined,” he said. “My understanding is as we speak this afternoon, an emergency relief funding request has come in from the Maryland state [transportation department]. We’ll be processing that immediately to start getting them what they need.”

Buttigieg said that he expects the White House will need lawmakers to authorize additional money beyond the approximately $1 billion allocated by the 2021 infrastructure law for potential emergency relief.

“It is certainly possible — I would go so far as to say likely — that we may be turning to Congress in order to help top up those funds,” he said, “but that shouldn’t be a barrier to the immediate next few days beginning to get the ball rolling.”

A cargo ship crashed into the bridge early on Tuesday, causing a near-total collapse of the span and halting vessel traffic into and out of the Port of Baltimore.

Buttigieg said at Wednesday’s briefing that he’s concerned about the local economic impact of the port’s ongoing closure.

“No matter how quickly the channel can be reopened, we know that it can’t happen overnight, and so we’re going to have to manage the impacts in the meantime,” he said. “We’re working to mitigate some of those impacts.”

He said he’ll be meeting Thursday with shippers and other supply chain partners to “understand their needs” during this disruption.

“That said, the Port of Baltimore is an important port, so for our supply chains and for all the workers who depend on it for their income, we’re going to help to get it open as soon as safely possible,” he added.

President Joe Biden has likewise pledged his administration’s muscle to the rebuilding efforts, saying in remarks from the White House on Tuesday afternoon that “it’s my intention that the federal government will pay for the entire cost of reconstruction in that bridge. I expect the Congress to support my effort.”

“This is going to take some time,” the president said then. Nonetheless: “We’re not leaving until this job gets done.”

The crash appeared to be accidental, not intentional, officials have said.

Two people were rescued from the Patapsco River and at least six people remain missing, according to officials. The search-and-rescue mission for the missing construction workers was suspended Tuesday evening; operations then shifted to a recovery phase.

ABC News’ Sam Sweeney contributed to this report.

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