DeFazio Urges DOT to Release $911 Million of Unused Highway Emergency Relief Funds
Today, the Ranking Democrat on the House Committee on Transportation and Infrastructure Peter DeFazio (D-OR) sent a letter to Secretary of Transportation Elaine Chao urging immediate action to address the backlog under the Federal-aid Highway Emergency Relief (ER) program. Currently, the U.S. Department of Transportation (DOT) has $911 million in available ER funds that are sitting unused. Across the nation, there are $1.76 billion in federal-aid highway repair and recovery needs from past disasters. Of the current $1.76 billion backlog, $10.25 million is attributed to Oregon’s past disaster needs.
These amounts, based on August 2017 data, do not include this fall’s influx of devastating disasters. As affected communities begin to identify the extent of damages caused by Hurricanes Harvey, Irma, and Maria, as well as the raging wildfires in Oregon and other western states, the need for ER funding is going to dramatically increase. Ranking Member DeFazio is urging Congress to provide additional funding for the ER program, but DOT must demonstrate its ability to efficiently distribute funding to reduce the backlog of requests.
“I urge you to do everything in your power to help communities struggling to recover from disasters by demonstrating that, if Congress appropriates additional funds, the Department is ready to be a conduit—not an impediment—to provide critical ER funds to these communities,” said DeFazio.
The full letter can be found here.