DALLAS -- The project to rebuild a portion of an interstate highway in Atlanta destroyed by a recent fire will receive $10 million from the $768.2 million in emergency relief funds released to 40 states on Thursday by the Federal Highway Administration.

The total is one of the largest federal grants ever for highway infrastructure repair efforts, the Transportation Department said. The grants come from the Federal Highway Administration’s emergency relief program.

“Transportation is a lifeline for communities struggling to recover from floods, hurricanes or other natural disasters,” said Transportation Secretary Elaine Chao. “These funds will help with long-term, permanent repairs, as well as, immediate needs to reestablish the transportation networks on which families and businesses alike depend.”

The largest emergency grant goes to Colorado, which will receive $124 million for widespread repairs across the state needed because of severe flooding in 2013. Colorado will also use the grant funding to repair a section of I-70 damaged in a rockslide in 2016.

States will receive $768 million in federal emergency relief funds to repair and rebuild damaged highway infrastructure.
States will receive $768 million in federal emergency relief funds to repair and rebuild damaged highway infrastructure.
Colorado DOT

California is second on the list, with an emergency grant of more than $105 million for highway infrastructure damaged by catastrophic storms, floods, and rain events over the past three years.

South Carolina will receive a grant of $79 million to restore roads damaged by Hurricane Matthew in October 2016. A $61 million grant to Ohio will go for repairs to roads that were damaged by landslides and floods.

The emergency relief funds also will help repair roads serving several national parks, national forests, and other federal lands.

The $10 million from FHWA for repairs to the stretch of Interstate 85 in Atlanta was released early shortly after the damage occurred on March 30. A bridge on the heavily traveled road collapsed during rush hour as the result of a massive fire beneath the elevated portion of the highway.

“The quick release of these funds will help to ensure the bridge is repaired safely and in a timely manner to prevent any further disruption to the hundreds of thousands of people who travel it on a daily basis,” Chao said. “I also commend the first responders who saved countless lives by taking swift and appropriate action at the onset of this incident.”

An estimated 400,000 vehicles per day used the section of I-85 put out of action by the fire. The road was built in 1953 and its capacity was expanded in 1985 to accommodate traffic growth.

The $10 million from the “quick release” funding is being used to restore emergency access and make the most critical repairs.

The repairs to I-85 should be finished by mid-June, said Marc Mastronardi, director of construction at the Georgia Department of Transportation.

“We are going to incentivize the completion of this work,” Mastronardi said. “We have selected a date that we believe is aggressive but attainable and will offer a bonus for early completion.”

Funding from the FHWA’s emergency program is available for the repair or reconstruction of highways built with the help of federal dollars or located on federal lands. State highway departments can ask for a grant to cover the costs of repairing damages from catastrophes covered by a formal emergency declaration by a governor or the president.

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