Arkansas is in line to receive up to $16.9 million in federal emergency relief funds to pay for repairs to roads and bridges damaged by the historic Arkansas River flooding in 2019 and other natural disasters.
Federally owned roads operated by the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, the U.S. Forest Service, or the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service in Arkansas are to receive another $2.9 million in the emergency payments, according to the Federal Highway Administration.
The money is part of $1.39 billion in emergency relief payments to help 42 states, the District of Columbia, Puerto Rico and the U.S. Virgin Islands make repairs to roads and bridges damaged by storms, floods and other events. It amounts to the largest emergency relief funding awarded since 2011, the agency said.
The allocation will help facilitate recovery from nearly 200 emergency events, including Hurricanes Irma and Maria in Puerto Rico; storms and flooding in Nebraska, Iowa, Kansas, California, Alabama and Kentucky; and many others, according to the agency.
The funds will help pay for reconstruction or replacement of damaged highways and bridges along with arrangement of detours and replacement of damaged safety devices.
"Emergency relief funding is critical to restoring vital transportation links damaged by severe weather and other unexpected events that are heavily relied upon by communities for daily travel," Deputy Federal Highway Administrator Stephanie Pollack said in a prepared statement announcing the awards.
The money for Arkansas included about $10 million for emergency relief repair projects stemming from Arkansas River flooding in June 2019, $7 million for damage from Hurricane Barry in July 2019, $1.8 million for a landslide caused by heavy rain, and almost $1 million for flooding from heavy rains that included a catastrophic road failure among the damage in May 2020, according to a news release.
The $16.9 million the Arkansas Department of Transportation is to receive is on top of $13.1 million the state received in September 2020, said Michael Kelly, staff maintenance engineer and emergency management liaison officer for the department.
The department asked for a total of $30 million in the emergency funding to pay for temporary and permanent repairs. The Arkansas River flooding caused the most damage, a total of $17 million that the department was able to document, according to the agency's request.
The request documented roadway surface damage, embankment failures and slides in 17 counties. The request also included $3.5 million in damage to the pier protection systems on bridges crossing the Arkansas River.
Emergency repairs were handled by the department, counties and cities at the time they occurred, Kelly said. Some permanent repairs have been completed and some are ongoing.
In all cases, the work is paid by the department, which then seeks reimbursement from the Federal Highway Administration, according to Kelly.
It will speed this along now that the department knows the money is available, he added.
"Many of the permanent repairs have been delayed until this latest federal funding allocation has been received," he said. "Final designs and construction can be scheduled now that the funding has been allocated."