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DOT providing $871 million for highway disaster relief

Disasters in California trigger 18% of funding. Credit: Jim Allen/FreightWaves

The Trump administration will spend $871.2 million to repair roads and bridges in the U.S. and in American territories that have been damaged in natural disasters and unexpected events over the past three years.

The funding, which is taken from the Highway Trust Fund and allotted to the Federal Highway Administration’s (FHWA) Emergency Relief program, will be used to help rebuild damaged infrastructure in 39 states, Puerto Rico, American Samoa, the Northern Mariana Islands and the U.S. Virgin Islands. FHWA is an agency of the U.S. Department of Transportation (DOT).

“This administration is providing federal funding to help repair roads and bridges damaged during natural disasters, including hurricanes, wildfires, floods and earthquakes,” said U.S. Secretary of Transportation Elaine L. Chao in announcing the relief Sept. 10.

The largest piece of the funding — $220 million (25%) — will go to Puerto Rico for the ongoing effort to repair damage caused by Hurricanes Irma and Maria in 2017. California will receive $157 million (18%) of the relief, which includes $115 million for storms and fires that have occurred over the past three years. More than $12 million has been set aside for road damage in Hawaii caused by volcanoes and earthquakes.

In addition, more than $6.5 million was earmarked for tribal governments for events in California, Michigan, Nebraska, South Dakota and Wisconsin.

States and territories that suffer road and bridge damage are eligible for funding from the emergency program based on the extent and intensity of the disaster. “Damage to highways must be severe, occur over a wide area and result in unusually high expenses to the highway agency,” according to FHWA.

Funding to address catastrophic failures is based on criteria showing that the failure “was not the result of an inherent flaw in the facility but was sudden, caused a disastrous impact on transportation services and resulted in unusually high expenses to the highway agency.”

The emergency relief funding comes two weeks after DOT/FHWA awarded $225 million for rural bridge renovation and repair.

John Gallagher

Based in Washington, D.C., John specializes in regulation and legislation affecting all sectors of freight transportation. He has covered rail, trucking and maritime issues since 1993 for a variety of publications based in the U.S. and the U.K. John began business reporting in 1993 at Broadcasting & Cable Magazine. He graduated from Florida State University majoring in English and business.