FHWA Emergency Relief Program and Resilience

The Federal Highway Administration (FHWA) developed this document to clarify that program funds provided through the Emergency Relief (ER) Program may be used to rebuild more resiliently in ways that will prevent damage from future extreme weather events. The FHWA-ER program provides funding for the repair or reconstruction of Federal-aid highways that have experienced major damage from natural disasters or other externally-caused catastrophic failures.

This FAQ document notes that FHWA-ER funding may be used to rebuild more resiliently so long as the rebuilding is consistent with current standards (without being considered a "betterment"), or will save the FHWA-ER program money over time. For example, a state that requires transportation planning and project development processes to consider future conditions (but that did not require this consideration when the damaged road was originally built), would satisfy the "current standards" justification. In situations where restoring a roadway to its pre-disaster condition would render it vulnerable to repeated damage, FHWA-ER funding may be used to rebuild the roadway with added protective features so long as the cost of those features is economically justified over time. States must complete economic analysis to show that added protective features are eligible for FHWA-ER funds under this justification.

The FAQ document includes examples of how state departments of transportation have utilized the current standards justification and economic justification to rebuild facilities in ways that improve resilience to future extreme weather events. It also notes that other FHWA program funding may be used to proactively plan or build facilities that will be more resilient under future climate and extreme weather conditions, citing as an example the agency's previous memo on use of Federal-aid funds for climate adaptation.


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