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  • Writer's pictureThe San Juan Daily Star

Federal transportation agency distributes $729 million to states, Puerto Rico

U.S. Transportation Secretary Pete Buttigieg (Doug Mills/The New York Times)

By The Star Staff

As part of the U.S. Department of Transportation’s coordinated approach to help states repair and rebuild roads and bridges, the Federal Highway Administration (FHWA) will allocate $729.4 million to 34 states, the District of Columbia, the U.S. Virgin Islands and Puerto Rico.

The funds will be used to support repair needs following natural disasters, extreme weather, or catastrophic events, such as hurricanes, flooding and mudslides. The events will receive federal reimbursement funding under the FHWA’s Emergency Relief (ER) program as the result of major disaster declarations.

“As the climate crisis accelerates, more Americans are feeling the consequences in the form of extreme weather that devastates communities and destroys vital infrastructure,” said U.S. Transportation Secretary Pete Buttigieg. “These funds will help restore critical transportation connections across the country as communities continue to repair and rebuild infrastructure damaged by extreme weather.”

Puerto Rico is slated to receive some $32 million to cover the Oct. 26, 2022 storms and flooding and the September 2022 damages caused by Hurricane Fiona.

FHWA’s Emergency Relief Program supports the Transportation Department’s priority of addressing climate change by providing funding to help states perform repairs following major natural disasters and extreme weather events.

“Climate change is devastating communities across the U.S., in every state. Our transportation system was not designed to handle the climate impacts we are seeing in the 21st Century,” said FHWA Administrator Shailen Bhatt. “Since January 2022, FHWA has distributed over $1.3 billion in Emergency Relief dollars to help states make repairs because of climate-related events. The Bipartisan Infrastructure Law is providing new programs and funding opportunities to help our transportation system be more resilient to climate change and get people and goods where they need to go safely.”

The program includes funding for continued repairs from the 2022 flooding in and around Yellowstone Park; 2022 Hurricanes Ian, Fiona, and Nicole; 2023 flooding and mudslides in Vermont; and other disasters across the country. The funding will be used to reconstruct highways and bridges and protect the traveling public from further damages and allow for resiliency improvements as damages are repaired.

The funds are part of the Biden-Harris Administration’s holistic approach to building more resilient infrastructure, in order to make U.S. transportation infrastructure better able to withstand damage from catastrophic events caused by climate change. Additional programs to address these challenges include the PROTECT Formula and Discretionary Grant programs, which cost $8.7 billion.

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