November 2, 2012
State DOTs Picking up the Pieces after Hurricane Sandy
State transportation departments all along the east coast are joining in the effort to get life back to normal after taking a major hit from Hurricane Sandy earlier this week.
Sandy this week caused upwards of 100 fatalities and significant damage to several state transportation systems. During the height of the storm on Monday, bridges and roads throughout the mid-Atlantic and all along the eastern seaboard were closed. The storm also caused major damage to New York City's subway system, which was shut down for days due to flooding and power issues.
Even with the storm days removed, state transportation departments have a long road ahead in getting people back to their daily routines. U.S Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood held a conference call with state DOT CEOs on Tuesday to brief them on the situation and how USDOT and its sub-agencies (such as the Federal Highway Administration, Federal Transit Administration, Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration, and the Federal Aviation Administration) could assist state DOTs in their efforts to repair transportation infrastructure damage.
"The President's top priority is to make sure that all available resources are being provided to state and local responders as quickly as possible," LaHood said during the call.
States DOTs are communicating their own stories of Hurricane Sandy. North Carolina Department of Transportation released a short video Tuesday showing how NCDOT crews responded to the challenges Hurricane Sandy presented to the state.
"There is a temptation after a storm like this to get out and view the damage," said Rhode Island Department of Transportation Director Mike Lewis in a statement. "We ask people in hard hit areas not to make any unnecessary trips and to be mindful of the men and women working to restore our power and get our roads back to normal."
New York Governor Andrew Cuomo stated his concern that these types of natural disasters are happening all too often now and that our transportation systems are in need of upgrade.
"We have a new reality when it comes to these weather patterns," Cuomo said Tuesday to a group of reporters. "We have an old infrastructure and we have old systems and that is not a good combination. We have to find ways to build this city back stronger and better than ever before to make sure that if there is still another situation like this, we're more prepared and more protected than we have been thus far."
In the short-term, five states are receiving funding from USDOT to repair some of the damage left by Sandy: $10 million to New York, $10 million to New Jersey, $4 million for North Carolina, $3 million for Rhode Island, and $2 million for Connecticut. That money comes from the FHWA’s quick release emergency relief funds that are targeted to help repair roads, bridges, and tunnels that are immediately needed.
"This funding is only the first step in the difficult process of helping the region recover," said FHWA Administrator Victor Mendez in a statement. "The federal government stands ready to assist in helping affected states repair roads and bridges so that residents can begin to resume daily activities."
It is clear that the damage from the storm is so widespread that state transportation departments will continue working for months to repair it.
"I want to thank the state departments of transportation whose road crews have been and continue to be out in force, trying to clear roadways," LaHood said in his blog Thursday. "All of these organizations are trying their best and working their hardest to help people get back to their normal activities, and we at DOT will do whatever we can to support them."
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