FHWA Issues over $15M in Emergency Relief to California

The Federal Highway Administration recently issued $15.3 million in “quick release” Emergency Relief funds to local public agencies in 12 California counties to offset repair costs for roads, trails, parking areas, and other infrastructure damaged by Tropical Storm Hilary in August.

[Above photo by Caltrans]

On August 18, the heavy rain, flooding, lightning, and gusty winds from Tropical Storm Hilary generated mud and debris flows that damaged surface transportation infrastructure significantly those counties – forcing the closure of federal-aid roads and highways in those counties.

In a statement, the FHWA said its “quick release” emergency funds will primarily be used to fix local transportation infrastructure  damaged by the storm, including Whitney Portal Road in Inyo County, which provides access to Mount Whitney and the surrounding attractions, including the Mount Whitney Trailhead and Alabama Hills.

Photo by the National Park Service

[Editor’s note: In September, the agency issued $4.6 million in emergency funds to the National Park Service, the U.S. Forest Service, and the U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service to offset costs of repair work for roads, trails, parking areas, and other infrastructure damaged by floods caused by Tropical Storm Hilary in Death Valley National Park and other western federal lands.]

FHWA pointed out that “quick release” emergency funds are just an initial resource installment to help restore essential transportation. Additional funds needed to repair damages on the federal lands affected by Tropical Storm Hilary will be supported by the Emergency Relief program through nationwide funding allocations, the agency added.

This is but the latest round of emergency funding issued by FHWA to repair disaster-damaged transportation infrastructure in various parts of the country.

In May, the agency issued $749 million in Emergency Relief program funds to 39 states, the District of Columbia, and Puerto Rico to repair and rebuild roads and bridges damaged by a variety of “catastrophic events,” which includes extreme weather events.

In June, FHWA issued $3 million in emergency funds to the Pennsylvania Department of Transportation support highway traffic “mitigation efforts” around an I-95 highway bridge that collapsed following a tanker truck fire.

[Editor’s note: the time-lapse video below chronicles the six-day effort to install a temporary bridge structure to allow the vital I-95 highway to be fully reopened.]

That money helped defray the cost of demolition for the damaged structure, plus the emergency repairs necessary to restore the roadway’s ability to handle its traffic volumes of 160,000 vehicles per day.

In August, the agency issued $10 million emergency funds for use as a down payment by the Vermont Agency of Transportation to help offset costs to repair infrastructure damaged by statewide flooding that occurred in July.  Also in August, FHWA issued $3 million emergency funds to the Hawaii Department of Transportation to offset costs associated with traffic management services and infrastructure repairs due to wildfires that struck West Maui.

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