The PROTECT Act, a program intended to make communities more resilient to climate change-induced weather events, was unveiled on Friday by Pete Buttigieg, U.S. Secretary of Transportation, and Utah Governor Spencer Cox.
“Today we are proud to launch a first-of-its-kind $7.3 billion initiative to modernize America’s infrastructure to withstand extreme weather, so that the roads, bridges, transit and waterways that people rely on can stay open,” said Buttigieg.
Utah will receive an estimated $65 million in funding for bridge replacement that can withstand floods, making sure communities have evacuation routes, and constructing protective features so roads can withstand wildfires.
“Residents here have been seeing, as the governor just described, the results of extreme weather with their own eyes,” Buttigieg said, “and we’ve been seeing it day by day...seeing the burn scars near the roads, the Great Salt Lake itself is drying up, remnants of these fires being breathed in by children and their families.”
The Utah Department of Transportation (UDOT) partnered with multiple federal agencies to build better drainage infrastructure, weather monitoring systems and walls to protect roads from future flooding, allocating about $2 million from its existing budget.
“Had UDOT not done that, that is money that could have been spent on other things,” Cox said. “That is why the PROTECT program that we’re going to talk about today is so very important and valuable. It provides the resources that departments of transportation and local governments will need to invest in transportation resilience and move fast when an incident occurs.”
The U.S. Department of Transportation (USDOT) says Utah will receive $2.6 billion over the next five years for highway and bridge construction under the bipartisan Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act (IIJA).
Utah will also receive about $57 million over the next five years for funding to reduce transportation-related emissions, and $65 million to increase the resilience of its transportation system.
“We see the effects of climate change and extreme weather play out across the country every week, with extreme temperatures and rainfall and resulting flooding and wildfires that damage, and in some cases destroy, roads, bridges and other transportation infrastructure,” Stephanie Pollack, acting federal highway administrator, said in a statement Friday.