Disaster dollars

By |  December 15, 2011

Money for highways means money for aggregate producers, and 2012 brings hope of a new highway-funding bill. For the first time since the previous bill expired in 2009, I’m optimistic that a reauthorization will finally get passed. But in a presidential election year, anything can happen. Given the proposals currently on the table in the Senate and House, the funding levels in a new bill will likely be similar to those of the last bill and its numerous extensions.

Compared to short-term extensions, the benefit of a multiyear bill would be the security it brings. Aggregate producers would be more likely to hire workers and invest in capital purchases if they know the money is going to be there for the long term.

In the meantime, U.S. Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood announced that the U.S. Department of Transportation will provide more than $215 million to states across the nation to cover the costs of repairing roads and bridges damaged by a variety of natural disasters.

The Federal Highway Administration will distribute the money from its emergency relief program to 34 states, Puerto Rico, the Virgin Islands, American Samoa and federal lands agencies to reimburse them for repairs to roads and bridges caused by storms and other catastrophic disasters.

According to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA), a record 12 weather and climate disasters in 2011 each caused $1 billion or more in damages in the United States. The country was hit by everything from extreme drought, heat waves and floods to unprecedented tornado outbreaks, hurricanes, wildfires and winter storms.

Among states that will receive funding, California will receive $43.4 million for flooding and earthquakes, North Dakota will receive $31.5 million for flooding in the Devil’s Lake region and Vermont will receive $15.4 million for flooding and damage from Tropical Storm Irene.

The money will reimburse states for fixing or replacing highways, bridges and other roadway structures. Costs associated with detours, debris removal and other immediate measures necessary to restore traffic flow in impacted areas are also eligible.

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