Leahy Heralds Committee Passage Of Additional Emergency Funds To Help Rebuild Vermont’s Roads And Bridges

WASHINGTON – U.S. Senator Patrick Leahy (D-Vt.) announced on Wednesday that the Senate Appropriations Committee has approved his amendment to add $1.9 billion in emergency assistance for the Federal Highway Administration (FHWA) to help rebuild roads and bridges washed out by Hurricane Irene and other federal disasters.  The committee’s bill also includes key waivers that would allow Vermont to access all of the funding it needs without overly burdensome cost-sharing requirements. 

The provisions were included in the annual transportation funding bill that the Senate Appropriations Committee approved on Wednesday – a key step for this legislation.  Leahy is the second-most-senior member of the committee and also a senior member of its transportation funding subcommittee.  The bill now moves to the full Senate for its consideration. 

Federal highway program officials currently estimate that Hurricane Irene caused nearly $1 billion in damage to highway infrastructure in states along the East Coast.  Vermont alone will face a repair tab of $700 million or more, according to current estimates.  But FHWA’s Emergency Relief Fund has less than $140 million left in the pot and already faces a backlog of more than $1.1 billion in repair projects from disasters previous to Irene. 

Leahy said, “Vermont bore the full brunt of Irene.  Roads, bridges and rail lines all over the state have been wiped out.  It is devastation I have never seen before in Vermont.  Our small state is stretched to the limit right now, and without additional federal aid Vermont will not have the resources we need to rebuild the lifelines that these destroyed roads and bridges provide to so many Vermonters.  With winter on the doorstep, and just weeks to accomplish so much, we need the Department of Transportation’s full and immediate support.”

Leahy and U.S. Senator Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.) and U.S. Representative Peter Welch (D-Vt.) have been working with Governor Peter Shumlin and other state and municipal officials across Vermont to address the state’s rebuilding efforts.  Sanders and Welch joined Leahy in supporting the additional emergency highway funds.   

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