DOT Gives Wisconsin 1.6 Million to Rebuild Highway Infrastructure

by Eric G. Braun, Senior Writer, USRW

The roads and bridges destroyed by recent flooding in Wisconsin received some help from the U.S. Department of Transportation who has made available $1.6 million in Emergency Relief Fund (ER) from the Federal Highway Administration. (FHWA).

From August into September, the state experienced severe weather throughout Buffalo and Trempealeau Counties. Severe storms caused major flooding, resulting in washouts of roads, culverts and multi-use paths.  Roads in more than 15 counties in central Wisconsin suffered additional damage from flash floods and extreme runoff.

“These floodwaters have impacted the residents and businesses statewide,” said DOT Secretary Foxx. “This money will ensure critical repairs are made to keep affected communities connected to vital services and emergency relief.”

A total of $1,615,000 in quick release funding will be used to stabilize, rebuild and repair damaged embankments, roadways and bridges. This initial quick release payment is considered a down payment on the costs of short-term repairs now which can make long-term repair work possible in the weeks ahead. The FHWA’s ER program provides funding for highways and bridges damaged by natural disasters or catastrophic events.

“We want to do whatever we can to help the state move forward on the repairs needed to restore vital transportation links,” said Federal Highway Administrator Gregory Nadeau. “Our mission is to help Wisconsinites get their lives back to normal and relieve the toll on their economy.”

A destructive storm hammered parts of central and southern Minnesota, northern Iowa, and western and central Wisconsin, with up to 14 inches of rain on September 21st and 22nd. This triggered flooding of homes, mudslides, road washouts and rapid river rises.

Governor Walker said in that statement. “I want to thank all of the first responders and local officials in the area who are working hard to manage the situation. At the time, the Governor had instructed the Wisconsin National Guard and all state agencies to aid those affected by this natural disaster. We are saddened by the news of a fatality. Our thoughts and prayers are with the citizens of western Wisconsin affected by the storm as they recover," Walker stated at the time.

The ER program is in place, specifically for these types of unexpected catastrophes and natural disasters.  By law, the FHWA can provide up to $100 million in ER funding to a state for each natural disaster or catastrophic failure. In a natural disaster situation involving several states, each state is eligible for $100 million.

Have a disaster exceeding 100 million?

No problem says the DOT; Congress can lift the capped amount by passing special legislation.

Hopefully, you won’t have to rely on Congress as getting them to approve emergency funding sadly gets caught up in politics. Don’t take my word for it, though. Just ask the victims of Superstorm Sandy in New York and New Jersey whose emergency funding was delayed for months by political infighting in Washington. 

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