The Federal Highway Administration will dedicate more than $705 million in emergency relief funds to help 34 states and three territories rebuild infrastructure mangled by natural disasters.
The funds, announced Feb. 5, are meant to help the states, American Samoa, Puerto Rico and the U.S. Virgin Islands repair roads and bridges that have been damaged by floods, storms and other natural disasters.
FHWA’s emergency relief program reimburses states, territories and federal land management agencies for expenses associated with damage wrought by natural disasters. In addition to road and bridge reconstruction, the funds support detours, guardrail replacements and safety device repairs.
Hurricane Maria brought down poles and snarled power lines in Humacao, Puerto Rico. (Carlos Giusti/AP)
“The department is pleased to reimburse states and territories that have made critical repairs to their transportation infrastructure following natural disasters such as wildfires, storms and floods,” Secretary of Transportation Elaine Chao said in a press release.
About $153 million (more than one-fifth of the total sum) will be dedicated to repairing infrastructure ravaged by hurricanes Harvey, Irma and Maria in 2017.
Harvey swept through the Houston area in August causing massive flooding in what is one of the costliest disasters in U.S. history.
Puerto Rico received nearly $139 million to repair damage caused by Irma and Maria, both of which hit the island in quick succession in September. DOT made $40 million in “quick release” emergency relief funds available to Puerto Rico to assist with repairing damage Sept. 28, 2017.
Puerto Rico still is working to rebuild after the storms, which left millions without power.
“This funding will help continue to repair damage from Irma and Maria,” Deputy Federal Highway Administrator Brandye Hendrickson said in one of several video announcements posted to Twitter to discuss the funds. “This is a part of this administration’s commitment to repair damage caused by hurricanes across the island.”
Some $21 million was dedicated to Florida for relief efforts associated with Irma and Michael, the latter striking in October 2018 and battering the Panhandle with 155 mph winds.
“These funds will help keep our country’s roads and bridges safe and well-maintained in the aftermath of the hurricanes and other severe storms seen in recent years,” Hendrickson said.
California received $100 million to address damage caused by various incidents, some of which took place years ago. For example, FHWA’s funds will go toward repairing damage caused by wildfires as recent as the ones in July 2018 and as distant as ones from November 2008. Funds also have been set aside for addressing damage wrought by severe storms, a monsoon and the Oroville Dam spillway disaster of 2017.
The spate of emergency relief funding also directs millions to repairing damage caused by rockfall on U.S. Route 550 in Colorado, earthquakes and lava flow in Hawaii, flooding from snowmelt in Idaho and winter storms in Oregon.
“From wildfires that devastated California to hurricanes that rocked communities in Florida to dangerous rockslides in Colorado, natural disasters have ravaged communities from coast to coast,” Hendrickson said. “We are inspired by the resilience of the American people in the face of natural disaster.”