A staggering amount of money is slipping away due to the Baltimore bridge collapse

  • The Port of Baltimore is closed "until further notice" following a major bridge collapse.

  • Experts say the closure alone will halt some $15 million in daily economic activity.

  • The impact will likely increase from there as a critical roadway has been severed and routes shift.

Hours after Baltimore's Francis Scott Key Bridge collapsed Tuesday morning, the scale of the economic toll is beginning to emerge.

In addition to any loss of life and property, costs are mounting as one of the nation's most critical ports closes and a major interstate highway connection has been severed.

Experts told Business Insider that the port alone contributes $15 million in daily economic activity, which will come to a near-standstill "until further notice."

That's just the beginning.

"It's not just the Port of Baltimore that has been compromised," Anirban Basu, an economist and the founder and CEO of the Baltimore-based Sage Policy Group, told BI. "It's also the railroads, the trucking industry, the regional-distribution centers, commuters, and other segments of the economy."

Basu said those factors will push daily losses into the tens of millions of dollars until the shipping lane reopens.

"The tentacles here are far-reaching," he added. "And they're all negative."

Though it's far from the largest port in the US, Baltimore is one of the more specialized terminals for autos and agriculture equipment, known as "roll-on/roll-off" cargo, and some bulk commodities, such as coal.

Daraius Irani, the chief economist for the Regional Economic Studies Institute at Towson University in Maryland, told BI that the port is responsible for about 140,000 jobs, though he doesn't anticipate those will be at significant risk, so long as operations resume quickly.

"If it takes 60 days or 90 days, then it might have a longer-term and more deleterious effect," he said.

While some cargo must wait, container ships can largely reroute to other East Coast locations.

Ryan Peterson, the CEO of the global logistics firm Flexport, told Business Insider that 800 containers of his were destined for Baltimore and are now being rerouted. Two containers were on the ship that crashed into the bridge.

"It's over a million TEUs," he said, referring to the number of containers Baltimore handles. "It's not marginal."

And it's unclear whether East Coast ports will have enough available capacity to absorb Baltimore's container volume, Petersen said.

"It's still too early to say if this is going to affect the price of freight, but we're already having conversations with customers about shifting volumes from the East Coast to the West Coast," he said.

A risk for Baltimore will be whether those route changes are temporary or if they'll have a lasting impact on the port's business.

"Baltimore has been fighting very hard to get that traffic," Martin Dresner, a professor of logistics at the University of Maryland's Smith School of Business, said.

Meanwhile, he said the costs will be harder to compute on land, though arguably no less disruptive to the local economy.

When the Key Bridge opened in 1977, it completed the circle of I-695 around Baltimore and provided a crucial bypass route for hazardous materials that couldn't be transported through tunnels. That link is now broken, requiring vehicles to take a longer, slower alternate route.

Given that the first economic priority is reopening the port — and keeping it open — it will likely be a long time before the city can complete a replacement bridge. This will translate to longer delays and higher costs for moving people and goods through the region.

"Baltimore didn't have a great outlook coming into this, period," Basu said. "Now, with its No. 1 economic asset compromised, its outlook has sank to the bottom."

Read the original article on Business Insider