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Two months in, small businesses feeling impact from loss of Key Bridge

Posted at 6:24 PM, May 30, 2024

BALTIMORE, Md. — Before March 26th, if you needed a tow from the Key Bridge, Baltimore Towing Company was there for you 24 hours a day. It requires a special permit from the Maryland Transportation Authority (MDTA) to service the bridge. Baltimore Towing Company has had one since 2005.

"Now not having the bridge, there are no more calls on there to do until the bridge goes back up," owner Sonny Appolonia said. The new bridge isn't expected to be completed until 2028, according to the MDTA.

Appolonia says he and his team are taking on more work in other areas - like private towing - to make up for the lost calls. But it's not just the company itself dealing with the problem; it's the customers too.

"Our response times to other calls, because we do do the other side for the police department, it is taking us longer to get there. They are working with us and allowing that, but it could take us 45 minutes to get to the tunnel because of the traffic coming off Eastern."

Appolonia added, "I’m sorry for the loss of the guys down there on the bridge. Obviously that’s the most important part."

Decreased call volume, increased traffic, etc. - all of it comes at a cost. That's why the U.S. Small Business Administration (SBA) stepped in shortly after the collapse, offering low-interest disaster loans to those impacted. So far, 427 businesses have been approved, for a total of more than $20 million. Many of those businesses have already received money.

"Anywhere from the range of - my supplier's are charging me more money; I lost a contract or two contracts; I lost people. I talked yesterday to some business owners and they said they lost more than 50% of their revenue," Liliana Tschanett, public affairs specialists for the SBA's Office of Disaster Recovery & Resilience.

The SBA opened recovery centers for business owners to get one-on-one assistance with the application process. Those centers are closing tomorrow, Friday, May 31. Foot traffic has slowed down. But companies still have until the end of the year to apply, as some might not feel the impact until a few months down the road.

According to a report from the Maryland Chamber of Commerce, 64% of surveyed businesses say they've suffered revenue losses as a result of the bridge collapse. The report notes the impact has been far-reaching, including businesses in Southport, N.C. and St. Louis.

Anne Mburu's husband runs a transportation logistics company in the Baltimore area, and used to take the Key Bridge every day. Thursday morning, he heard about the centers closing and decided to apply.

"Because of the collapse he hasn't been able to move as much merchandise as he'd like to, partly because some of the loads come from the port and also the fact the expenses have increased so much becuase of the re-routing of the loads," Mburu said. "The traffic is really bad. He has to be very strategic in the morning so he can get to where he’s going on time."

The center located at CareFirst in Canton - 1501 S. Clinton St. - will close at 4 p.m. on Friday, May 31. The location in Dundalk - the Workforce Development Center at Eastpoint, 7938 Eastern Ave. - will close at 2:30 p.m. the same day.

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