U.S. Transportation Secretary Elaine Chao said Aug. 29 that she directed Federal Highway Administration officials to provide Texas with $25 million in quick-response emergency relief funds to help repair traffic lights, signage and flood-damaged roads and bridges following Hurricane Harvey.
“I have mobilized the Department of Transportation to provide whatever assistance Texas requires to restore the state’s transportation systems,” said Chao. “The funding provided today will help the state to act immediately and represents the beginning of our commitment to help repair Texas’ affected infrastructure.”
That FHWA account provides funding for highways and bridges damaged by natural disasters or other catastrophic events. The announcement said the $25 million will be used to restore emergency roadway access and then to initiate the most critical repairs to damaged roads and bridges.
While the amount will clearly cover just a fraction of the roadway infrastructure costs Texas will face from Harvey, the emergency FHWA funds will help pay for immediate repairs. The $25 million is also a quarter of the entire annual funding for that account, which the FHWA taps to disburse quick-release funds to state DOTs across the nation after events creating sudden damages.
“These funds couldn’t come at a better time,” said Texas Gov. Greg Abbott, adding that the money would be put to use immediately “for debris removal, cleanup and repairs to infrastructure. There is still a long road of rebuilding ahead, but this is a great first step and much needed in the hardest-hit communities across Texas.”
Abbott said that more than 1,500 state DOT employees have been responding to the disaster and assessing the impact.
“The historic flooding has downed traffic lights, damaged roadway signs and caused highway asphalt to buckle or worse, be swept away in some areas,” his announcement said, with more than 530 roads still flooded or closed as of Aug. 29.
“As TxDOT faces the enormous challenge to respond and address Harvey’s path of destruction, agency leaders say the federal funds will help them with everything from debris removal and traffic-light replacement to bridge and road repairs,” the statement said.
Texas Transportation Commission Chairman Tryon Lewis said “the cleanup after this hurricane will be a huge task,” but that the FHWA emergency aid will help TxDOT “get our highways clear so Texans can get back to their daily lives.”