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March 16, 2020 2:45 PM, EDT

FHWA Issues Emergency Relief Funds to Kentucky, Alabama

Flooding in AlabamaVehicles turn around on a road blocked by floodwaters in Helena, Ala., on Feb. 11, 2020. (Jay Reeves/Associated Press)

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The Federal Highway Administration is awarding Kentucky and Alabama funding to repair infrastructure that has been damaged by floods.

Transportation Secretary Elaine Chao announced March 10 that the agency would make $2 million in “quick release” emergency relief funds available for Kentucky. On March 11, she announced the availability of $5 million in emergency relief funds for Alabama.

The U.S. Department of Transportation’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.

In Kentucky, the funds will be used to repair roads and bridges damaged by flooding that occurred in early February. The flooding, which took place largely in the mountainous southeastern part of the state, caused landslides and prompted Gov. Andy Beshear to declare a state of emergency Feb. 7.

According to FHWA, more than 160 damaged federal-aid sites across 10 counties were impacted. Damage costs are estimated at $10 million.

“These emergency funds will help communities in Kentucky repair vital transportation routes,” Chao said.

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The funds directed to Alabama will help repair infrastructure that was ruined by flooding in early February. Heavy rainfall washed away roads in the northern and central parts of the state. One road that was ruined was the stretch of U.S. Route 231 that passes through Morgan County. A landslide caused large cracks in the segment of road, which will be closed for an extended period of time. Morgan County is located in northern Alabama and encompasses the city of Decatur.

FHWA’s estimated damage costs are about $30 million. In addition to road repairs, the federal funding may also be used to help state officials with costs associated with treatment needed to prevent further damage.

Nason

“This is only the beginning of our commitment to restoring Alabama’s broken transportation links and to providing state and local officials the federal support they need,” Federal Highway Administrator Nicole Nason said.

The pair of grants comes weeks after FHWA announced it is awarding $653.2 million in emergency relief funds to assist states and territories that have experienced infrastructure damage. The funding, announced Feb. 27, will be dispersed across 37 states, the District of Columbia, Puerto Rico and the U.S. Virgin Islands. During that round of funding, Alabama received $3.6 million, and Kentucky received $18.4 million. Much of that money will be used to repair damage incurred from previous floods and storms.

FHWA has provided $4.2 billion to states, territories, federal land management agencies and tribal governments since 2017 to cover eligible expenses associated with natural disasters. In addition to reconstructing roads and bridges, the funds can help with the arrangement of detours and the replacement of damaged safety devices.

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