Westside Eagle-Observer

Federal road repair money announced

- RON WOOD NWA Democrat-Gazette Ron Wood can be reached by email at rwood@nwaonline.com or on Twitter @ NWARDW.

FAYETTEVIL­LE — The U.S. Department of Transporta­tion has announced $11.9 million in emergency relief money for roads and bridges damaged by natural disaster last year in Northwest Arkansas, according to a news release.

The money will be used to reimburse the Arkansas Transporta­tion Department and the U.S. Forest Service for repairs to roads and bridges damaged by flooding in the northwest part of the state and the Ozark-St. Francis National Forest in 2021.

The money is also expected to help Arkansas address the ongoing impacts of climate change and severe weather.

Dave Parker, spokesman for the state transporta­tion department, said the money will assist the department with the cost of repairing damage on the federalaid highways in Arkansas caused by the storms and flash flooding that began April 28, 2021. Arkansas Gov. Asa Hutchinson issued emergency declaratio­ns following that flooding.

Parker said the highway department expects to receive about $10 million of the money for repair work and $1.9 million will go to the Forest Service. Those amounts are based on specific damages and repair estimates following the floods.

“Natural disasters continuall­y impact roads on the forest,” said Tracy Farley, public affairs officer for the Forest Service. “We are checking into the specifics of this announceme­nt and are always appreciati­ve of emergency funding to address those critical infrastruc­ture needs.”

It’s part of an ongoing effort to help states repair and rebuild critical infrastruc­ture residents and businesses rely on following extreme weather events, which are becoming more frequent, harder to predict and more severe due to a changing climate, according to the release.

The money awarded to Arkansas is part of an overall $513.2 million in the Emergency Relief Program package to help 30 states, the District of Columbia and Puerto Rico to repair roads and bridges damaged by storms, floods, wildfires and other events in recent years.

“From recent hurricanes that struck the Gulf Coast to wildfires in California and floods and mudslides in numerous states, we must address the devastatin­g impacts of climate change and work to build more sustainabl­e transporta­tion infrastruc­ture to better withstand its impacts for years to come,” said U.S. Transporta­tion Secretary Pete Buttigieg.

The nation’s transporta­tion infrastruc­ture is facing more frequent and unpredicta­ble damage from severe weather events, according to Acting Federal Highway Administra­tor Stephanie Pollack.

“The emergency relief funding this administra­tion is announcing today will overwhelmi­ngly go toward repairing damage caused by these extreme weather events tied to climate change as we work with states to repair roads and bridges relied upon by communitie­s across the country,” Pollock said.

The emergency relief program complement­s the Biden-Harris administra­tion’s comprehens­ive approach to combating climate change and mitigating its ongoing effects by encouragin­g transporta­tion agencies to identify and implement measures that make restored infrastruc­ture more resilient and better able to withstand damage from future events, according to the federal transporta­tion department news release.

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