As the shock of the Key Bridge collapse settled over Baltimore on Tuesday, the new traffic realities came not far behind. The Key, a four-lane-bridge that collapsed after being hit by a container ship, was not the most heavily trafficked route across the Baltimore Harbor, but without the crossing, about 34,000 cars and trucks will now have to find alternative routes.

The collapse severs the southern stretch of Interstate 695, the portion of the Baltimore Beltway that runs through the heavily industrial areas around the port. Early Tuesday morning, as I-695 closed around the bridge, the Maryland Transportation Authority was advising commuters to take one of the two tunnels that also span the harbor.

When the Key Bridge opened in 1977, it was intended to relieve traffic at the heavily congested Harbor Tunnel.

But the bridge was also built to serve as a critical third link for north-south traffic on I-95 and for commercial traffic from the port and distribution warehouses. Not only will the bridge collapse increase pressure on the tunnels, which were already carrying far more daily traffic than the Key Bridge, but it will also present a major headache to trucks that long relied on the bridge to transport goods.

“Nearly 4,900 trucks travel the bridge each day, with $28 billion in goods crossing every year,” said Sean McNally, a spokesman for the American Trucking Associations, in an email.

William Washington, who works at a plant that makes cement board right on the southern end of the bridge, said his work depends on a constant delivery of supplies. It is not clear what the scale of the disruption to the plant will be, but it will not be business as usual for some time.

Perhaps most affected will be trucks carrying hazardous materials, such as petroleum or natural gas, which are prohibited in the tunnels.

According to Mr. McNally, trucks carrying hazardous material will have to take about 30 miles of detours.


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