WASHINGTON – U.S. Senators Ben Cardin (D-Md.), Tammy Baldwin (D-Wisc.) and Mike Braun (R-Ind.) today introduced legislation to help states rebuild stronger roads, highways and bridges as they recover from natural disasters, such as a severe storm, flood or hurricane.
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. Last year, the U.S. Department of Transportation Office of Inspector General found that states may not be improving the resilience of transportation infrastructure to the extent possible. Baldwin’s legislation 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.
“Marylanders have seen firsthand the dangerous consequences of extreme weather,” said Senator Cardin, Ranking Member of the Environment and Public Works Transportation and Infrastructure Subcommittee. “With such impacts of climate change being felt across the country in the form of more frequent and severe floods, record-setting rainfall, and wildfires, we must better prepare ourselves by integrating resiliency into how we rebuild our infrastructure. This legislation takes an important step in this direction.”
“In recent years, communities in Wisconsin have been hit particularly hard by severe weather events and flooding that has washed out roads and damaged highways and bridges,” said Senator Baldwin. “As severe weather becomes more and more frequent, we need to empower states and local communities to build stronger 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.”
“As I travel Indiana, one issue Hoosiers consistently tell me could use work is our infrastructure,” said Senator Braun. “With recent severe flooding and devastating tornadoes hitting the state, rebuilding our infrastructure with resilience in mind is critical to keeping Hoosiers safe and saving taxpayer money in the long-run.”
Senators Cardin, Baldwin and colleagues recently wrote to leadership of the Senate Committee on the Environment and Public Works encouraging the committee to prioritize climate and resilience provisions in surface transportation reauthorization. These long-term investments are needed to ensure our nation’s surface transportation infrastructure is more resilient to the many threats posed by climate change. A copy of the letter to EPW is available here.
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 resiliency 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; and
- 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.
More information on the Rebuilding Stronger Infrastructure Act is available here.