U.S. Senators Tammy Baldwin (D-WI) and Mike Braun (R-IN) have introduced bipartisan 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. 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, highway infrastructure is rebuilt to pre-disaster specifications, leaving roads and bridges vulnerable to another disaster and costly damage repairs.
The bipartisan Rebuilding Stronger Infrastructure Actensures 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,” said Senator Baldwin. “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.”
“Indiana is routinely hit by extreme weather in the form of tornadoes and flooding, and our roads and bridges need to be prepared to prevent costly damage repairs later on,” said Senator Braun. “The Rebuilding Stronger Infrastructure Act ensures that we are investing in making our roads and bridges resilient to severe weather events and natural disasters while saving taxpayer dollars.”
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.
The Rebuilding Stronger Infrastructure Act is supported by the American Association of State Highway and Transportation Officials and Wisconsin Department of Transportation.
“Sen. Baldwin’s Rebuilding Stronger Infrastructure Act is common-sense legislation that will save taxpayers’ dollars and prevent unnecessary disruptions to our transportation system,” said Craig Thompson, Secretary-designee of the Wisconsin Department of Transportation. “When we identify roads and bridges that are prone to be damaged by natural disasters like flooding, it just makes sense to improve them to avoid that damage, rather than risk the disruption and expense of repairing them after they’ve been washed out. Sen. Baldwin’s bill will help states like Wisconsin keep our roads and bridges in good condition.”