- The U.S. Department of Transportation’s Federal Transit Administration (FTA) announced last week it awarded $277.5 million in financial relief to help repair public transportation systems damaged by Hurricanes Harvey, Irma and Maria.
- FTA plans to allocate approximately $223.5 million for Puerto Rico, $23.3 million for Texas, $22.8 million for Florida, $6.7 million for the U.S. Virgin Islands and $187,000 for Georgia. The total money includes $44.2 million for projects to improve resiliency.
- "The Department is committed to helping these communities recover from the devastation wreaked by the hurricanes as well as preparing them for future emergencies," U.S. Transportation Secretary Elaine Chao said in a statement.
Nearly 12 months on, much of Puerto Rico is still suffering the consequences of Hurricane Maria and struggling to rebuild after what some have decried as a "slow and inadequate" response. Meanwhile, Houston was rocked by Hurricane Harvey while cities in Florida and Georgia were among those hit by Hurricane Irma.
As local authorities continue to rebuild their infrastructure and strengthen it for future extreme weather, these investments will likely be welcome, including on emergency operations, and to repair damaged vehicles or infrastructure, but not on repairing streets as that is covered by different funding sources. FTA acting administrator Jane Williams noted in a statement the “critical role” public transportation played in helping provide “emergency support and evacuations,” and as communities recover, they will want to make sure the network is stronger than ever and able to cope with similar incidents.
In Houston, for example, bus agencies were crucial in helping move residents to higher ground and to emergency shelters. But that came at a cost: The Houston Chronicle reported damage to public transportation and related infrastructure totaled more than $17 million. And in Georgia, Chatham Area Transit played a similar role in the Savannah metropolitan area and is eligible for reimbursement.
Recovery efforts need to be stepped up in Puerto Rico, which received $8.4 million last year from the FTA to support its public transit. This additional amount should help support its rebuilding efforts, especially with nearly $170 million going to the Puerto Rico Highways and Transportation Authority and significant investments going into cities like San Juan.