FHWA Issues Emergency Relief Funding to Louisiana

Louisiana bridge damage
A sunken boat lies beside a bridge damaged by Hurricane Ida in Jean Lafitte, La., on Sept. 1. (John Locher/AP)

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Louisiana transportation officials have been issued $5 million in federal emergency relief funding to aid recovery efforts in the wake of Hurricane Ida.

The Federal Highway Administration on Sept. 8 announced the “quick release” emergency relief funding, which was directed to the Louisiana Department of Transportation and Development to make repairs to roads and bridges damaged by Ida.

The Category 4 storm made landfall Aug. 29, slamming Louisiana with winds reaching 150 mph and flooding the Gulf Coast. Its remnants progressed up the East Coast, bringing further rainfall and flooding.

Power outages and oil production challenges persist in Louisiana. Ida wreaked havoc on the state’s electrical system, toppling a transmission tower and downing power lines.

“The administration is using every lever at our disposal to help Louisiana respond to this tragic disaster — including these emergency relief funds,” said U.S. Deputy Transportation Secretary Polly Trottenberg. “We pledge to work closely with our state and local partners to help restore and rebuild the critical transportation infrastructure damaged by Hurricane Ida.”

According to FHWA, significant flooding from Ida caused damage to highway and bridge infrastructure in approximately 25 parishes throughout Louisiana.

Specifically, the quick release funds will be used for emergency repairs to infrastructure on the federal-aid network. Work will involve stabilizing embankments, repairing and rebuilding roads and bridges, addressing bridge scour and replacing destroyed signage. Scour occurs when fast-moving water removes the sediment surrounding a bridge’s footing, leaving behind a hole.

The funds are designed as initial installments to restore basic traffic services and limit further damage to help long-term repair work begin efficiently. In previous crises, FHWA has issued quick release funds to the Colorado Department of Transportation to assist with mudslide-damaged Interstate 70 as well as to authorities in Oregon and California to help recover from wildfires.

“FHWA will continue to work with Louisiana to provide technical assistance along with the necessary financial resources to make repairs promptly throughout the state and restore vital transportation links,” said acting Federal Highway Administrator Stephanie Pollack.

The agency’s funding represents one aspect of the federal government’s response to Ida.

The Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration on Aug. 29 issued a regional emergency declaration offering relief from regulations related to maximum driving time provisions for property-carrying vehicles and passenger-carrying vehicles. The declaration encompassed Alabama, Arkansas, Louisiana, Mississippi, Tennessee and Texas and applied to drivers providing direct assistance in support of emergency relief efforts.

The Federal Railroad Administration activated an emergency relief docket that offers railroads the ability to obtain temporary waivers from safety regulations to expedite service recovery and restoration. The purpose of an emergency relief docket is to ensure routine safety compliance requirements do not unnecessarily interfere with railroads’ efforts to respond in an emergency.

The Federal Transit Administration maintained contact with transit agency leaders in the impacted area, including representatives of the New Orleans Regional Transit Authority.

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