April 12, 2019 1:00 PM, EDT

DOT Announces $25 Million for Flood-Ravaged Nebraska

Flooding of BNSF train tracks in Plattsmouth, Neb. Floodwaters surround a damaged section of BNSF train tracks in Plattsmouth, Neb. (Daniel Acker/Bloomberg News)

Nebraska will receive millions in federal funds to repair infrastructure that has been damaged by severe flooding in the region.

Transportation Secretary Elaine Chao announced April 4 that the Federal Highway Administration will direct $25 million in “quick release” emergency relief funds to help repair roads affected by floodwaters. The funds also will be used to restore traffic routes to facilitate the movement of medical and food supplies to people and livestock.

DOT’s emergency relief program distributes funding for federally eligible highways and bridges that have been damaged by natural disasters. The agency has described quick release funds as a “down payment” on the costs of short-term repairs as the state continues to assess long-term needs.

“These funds are an important first step to helping Nebraska recover from the widespread damage of last month’s historic flooding,” Chao said.

Nebraska continues to grapple with the effects of the flooding, which was caused by snowmelt and a late-winter rainstorm, and which destroyed livestock and harvests on farms across the Midwest.

“Twenty-five million dollars in readily available assistance is a big boost to the state of Nebraska and our counties as we start to rebuild,” Gov. Pete Ricketts said in a statement. “Managing the expense of rebuilding infrastructure is one of the biggest challenges of responding to a disaster. This will directly support the state and counties in cash flowing essential repairs.”

Flooding at Offutt Air Force Base

An aerial view of Offutt Air Force Base and the surrounding areas affected by flood waters in Nebraska. (Rachelle Blake/Associated Press)

Over the past two weeks, the Nebraska Department of Transportation has conducted damage assessments on roads and bridges that are eligible for federal aid. Inspectors have found more than 300 sites on state and county transportation systems that need repairs and are eligible for funds.

Some 69 of the state’s 93 counties report flood damage on federal routes. State officials have estimated 190 miles of highway and 27 bridges need repair work. They identified six bridges that need to be replaced.

“The NDOT has been working closely with our partners at the local, state and federal levels to assess the condition of Nebraska’s transportation system, and in some places have already begun the process of reconstruction,” NDOT Director Kyle Schneweis said in statement. “We already have over 50 projects that have either been completed or are under construction. This shows the dedication of the NDOT team and the contracting community to get Nebraska moving again.”

The Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration issued an emergency declaration relaxing hours-of-service rules for truckers hauling relief supplies to 16 Midwestern states. The emergency declaration, issued March 19, was scheduled to remain in effect until April 18.

Ricketts issued a similar executive order March 20 lifting certain HOS restrictions for drivers delivering supplies or hauling away debris and dead livestock. The order was set to expire April 15.