Outside of DOT, it's not often that Deputy Transportation Secretary John Porcari and I are in the same place at the same time. But because we understand how important federal support is in the wake of natural disasters, we both wanted to be in New York to announce emergency relief funds to help the state rebuild roads damaged by Hurricane Sandy.
We both understand that when disaster strikes, we owe it to our fellow Americans to lend a hand. And that's why DOT is providing $287 million for New York to rebuild roads and bridges damaged by natural disasters. That includes $250 million specifically designated for Sandy relief.
The Obama Administration is absolutely committed to helping hardworking families in New York and throughout the Northeast recover and rebuild from Sandy. And with this funding, we are delivering on our commitment.
And that commitment doesn't end today. We will continue to work with the region as it rebuilds. In keeping with the vision that President Obama laid out in his State of the Union address--we will "Fix It First" by focusing on the infrastructure projects that will create jobs and help businesses fastest.
The funds we announced today from our Federal Highway Administration are part of the Disaster Relief Appropriations Act of 2013 signed last month by President Obama. They will be used to reimburse New York State for expenses associated with storm damage like reconstructing or replacing damaged highways and bridges, establishing detours, removing debris, and replacing highway infrastructure devices such as lighting and guardrails.
As Federal Highway Administrator Victor Mendez said, “We want to be sure that states have all the financial backing they need from the federal government to repair roads and bridges, rebuild local economies, and restore daily life in affected communities.”
We also took another step today to help states begin recovery work sooner: a new rule to streamline the federal environmental review process so repairs on storm-damaged roads, bridges and transit facilities aren’t hampered by delay. The new rule speeds the recovery process by reducing the environmental review for transit, road and bridge repair projects that substantially conform to the preexisting design, function and location as the original.
In the wake of Hurricane Sandy, President Obama called us to action—asking that we do all we can to support our state and local partners as they work to restore vital transportation infrastructure. And DOT answered the call.
Even before Sandy hit, DOT agencies were working with state transit agencies along the East Coast to ensure we could quickly deliver resources needed on the ground once the storm ended. We quickly dispatched 58 DOT employees to Joint Field Offices in New York and New Jersey to assist FEMA and state and local governments in their response efforts.
We provided quick release funds to help start repairs on damaged roads and bridges and delivered buses to replace lost commuter rail and transit service. We housed emergency responders on maritime vessels and temporarily suspended hours-of-service requirements to speed the movement of supplies into affected areas. We issued waivers to rush gas and oil products to the Northeast and worked quickly to restore normal air traffic operations. And we are supporting long-term recovery efforts as part of the Hurricane Sandy Rebuilding Task Force.
Today’s announcement ensures that this momentum will continue.
Our message to hard-hit states is clear: You are not alone; when disaster strikes, this DOT stands ready to help. As Deputy Secretary Porcari said today, "It's what the American people deserve."