DOT Releases Emergency Funds for Storm Repair

By Eric G Braun, Senior Writer, USRW

There is hope ahead for those states that are affected by storms or catastrophic events that have taken a toll on the nation’s infrastructure. U.S. Transportation Secretary Elaine L. Chao has approved the release of $768.2 million for emergency repair work to roads and bridges damaged by storms or catastrophic events in 40 states. Funded through the Federal Highway Administration’s (FHWA) Emergency Relief (ER) program, it is one of the largest single awards for such repair work made by the federal government.

“Transportation is a lifeline for communities struggling to recover from floods, hurricanes or other natural disasters,” said Secretary Chao. “These funds will help with long-term, permanent repairs, as well as, immediate needs to reestablish the transportation networks on which families and businesses alike depend.”

The ER funds will help states from Alaska to Florida, as well as roads serving several national parks, U.S. forests and other federal lands.

At $124 million, Colorado topped the list among states to be reimbursed from this release of ER program funds for widespread repairs to severe flooding damage in the state that goes back to 2013 and to repair a section of I-70 in Glenwood Springs damaged in 2016 by a rock slide, helping the route’s 17,000 daily drivers.

At more than $105 million, California is second on the list for a variety of storm, rain, floods, and fire events over the last three years. South Carolina follows at more than $79 million for severe storms, including Hurricane Matthew last October. Ohio received $61 million for damages to roads caused by landslides, heavy rain, and flooding.

FHWA’s ER program reimburses states for eligible expenses associated with major damage from natural disasters or other emergency situations based on a request from the Governor of the state or a Presidential disaster declaration.

This is a main reason some Governors will declare certain areas as a disaster after an event, because it must be declared as such to be eligible for federal funds. However, it’s not a rubber-stamped check; the feds are smart enough not to just take a state’s word for it. Uncle Sam has no problem demanding federal money back if it’s determined it did not meet the federal criteria. This was an issue in New Jersey following Hurricane Sandy. To this day the state and federal authorities are catching up with towns that may have received approved funds, later found to be ineligible for one reason or another.

These funds are already approved and budgeted for and are not a part of the nationwide move by the Trumps administration to finance and address the improvement of the nation’s infrastructure. 

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