On October 29, 2012, roughly 50 million people living on the Eastern seaboard faced down one of the worst natural disasters in memory – Hurricane Sandy. The storm was also by far the worst disaster ever to hit public transportation in a region that accounts for well over a third of all the daily transit riders in the nation. In fact, at the height of the storm, approximately 40 percent of our nation’s transit riders were at a standstill from Washington, DC to Boston.
President Obama directed DOT to waste no time in coordinating a response to the disaster. And that’s exactly what we did, working closely with our partners at the Federal Emergency Management Agency and the area’s transit providers. While touring some of the most storm-ravaged areas, Federal Transit Administrator Peter Rogoff and I, along with Governors Chris Christie and Andrew Cuomo, the Congressional delegations, and Mayor Bloomberg, saw first-hand just how much work was needed to return to normal.
In order to help these communities rebuild, DOT is announcing a third round of emergency aid, totaling $1.42 billion.
These funds complement the nearly $554 million we announced earlier this month to begin reimbursing several of the hardest-hit agencies.
I’m proud of the fact that in less than two months’ time, we met our commitment to Congress to provide $2 billion to more than a dozen transit agencies that suffered serious storm damage, and laid the groundwork to continue helping them rebuild stronger than before. These funds are part of the $10.9 billion in Federal aid made available through the Disaster Relief Appropriations Act signed into law by President Obama on January 29.
The Federal Transit Administration, which administers these funds through its new Emergency Relief Program, did an outstanding job obtaining damage and cost assessments up front, in the storm’s aftermath. This helps ensure that the right amount of money is going where it is needed most—and lays the groundwork for a portion of the remaining funds to help strengthen transit agencies to withstand future storms and other disasters.
A detailed breakdown of how we’re allocating the funds announced today, and information on eligibility requirements for those funds, appears in today’s Federal Register. The FTA has also published an Interim Final Rule for its Emergency Relief Program, which outlines general requirements that apply to all the funds allocated related to Sandy and future grants to be awarded under the new program for ongoing recovery efforts and to help agencies become more resilient in the face of future storms and disasters. You can also find a table listing total allocations for Hurricane Sandy funding recipients to date and a summary of their reimbursable expenditures here.
Millions of men, women, and children depend on the transit systems in the Northeast corridor to get where they need to go every day. It is imperative that we continue this rapid progress to restore these systems – and begin helping them to prepare effectively to mitigate damage from the next big storm that comes their way.