U.S. Senators Tammy Baldwin (D-Wisconsin) and Mike Braun (R-Indiana) recently introduced legislation to help states rebuild stronger and more resilient roads, highways, and bridges as they recover from extreme weather and natural disaster damage brought by severe storms, floods, or hurricanes.
The Federal Highway Administration’s Emergency Relief Program provides federal funding to states to rebuild roads and bridges damaged by storms, floods, and other disasters. According to Senator Baldwin's office, incorporating resiliency improvements into emergency relief projects has become increasingly important, particularly as states and communities sustain years of repeated damage and are forced to rebuild with limited funds. Yet too often, the senator says, highway infrastructure is rebuilt to pre-disaster specifications, leaving roads and bridges vulnerable to another disaster and costly damage repairs.
The goal of the Rebuilding Stronger Infrastructure Act is to ensure that resilience improvements are eligible for federal funding and requires the Federal Highway Administration to provide states with the guidance and tools needed to rebuild infrastructure that is more resilient to the next severe weather event.
“In recent years, communities in Wisconsin have been particularly hard hit by extreme weather and flooding that has washed out roads and damaged highways and bridges,” Senator Baldwin said in a statement. “As extreme weather becomes more and more frequent, we need to empower states and local communities to build stronger and more reliant roads and bridges that can withstand the next storm or natural disaster. This reform will not only ensure we are better protecting our infrastructure, but it will also save taxpayer dollars by making sure we are building it back better.”
The Rebuilding Stronger Infrastructure Act would:
- Require the Federal Highway Administration to update the Emergency Relief Manual to include the definition of resilience and identify procedures state departments of transportation may use to incorporate resilience into emergency relief projects. The manual shall also encourage the use of complete streets design principals and consideration of access for moderate and low income families impacted by a declared disaster;
- Require the Federal Highway Administration to develop best practices for improving resilience of projects funded by the Emergency Relief program. Best practices will be shared with division offices of the Federal Highway Administration and state departments of transportation;
- Require the Federal Highway Administration to develop and implement a process to track consideration of resilience projects as part of the Emergency Relief Program and the cost of Emergency Relief projects; and
- Clarifies that cost-justified resilience improvements are eligible for Emergency Relief funding.
SOURCE: Office of Senator Tammy Baldwin