The Federal Highway Administration has released $5 million in emergency funds to Louisiana, to help cover the state’s immediate costs of repairing and clearing highways and bridges damaged by Hurricane Laura and Tropical Storm Marco.

The funds, which FHWA announced on Sept. 4, are viewed as a first installment toward what could be a much larger amount of funds needed as damage estimates come into sharper focus.

FHWA said the new “quick release” aid will help work to start immediately on such tasks as stabilizing road embankments and rebuilding damaged highways.

Shawn Wilson, secretary of the Louisiana Dept. of Transportation and Development (DOTD), welcomed the FHWA action. Wilson said in a statement, “Thousands of miles of state roadways were impacted by this disastrous storm and these funds will assist in expediting the reconstruction of any roads and bridges that were damaged.”

A Louisiana DOTD spokesman said on Sept. 8 via email, "We have several movable bridges that sustained damage." He also said, "Routes close to the coast sustained shoulder damage along approximately 18 miles and there are numerous signs and signals that have to be replaced."

The spokesman said that the DOTD is developing cost estimates for the needed repairs.

He added that none of the interstates in Louisiana had damage, except for debris and downed power lines that led to highway closures.

U.S. Transportation Secretary Elaine L. Chao said in a statement, “This administration is committed to helping the residents of Louisiana recover and rebuild in the aftermath of these hurricanes.”

The newly issued FHWA funds are part of the agency's emergency relief program, which reimburses states for highway and bridge reconstruction expenses after natural disasters.

The Louisiana DOTD said the funds will allow work to start quickly to reopen roads to traffic and limit further damage, to allow long-term repairs to begin sooner.

Emergency Relief Program

The emergency funds can reimburse 100% of expenses the state incurs within 180 days of a disaster for work to restore critically important travel, minimize damages or protect highway and bridge facilities, according to FHWA.

That 180-day period can be extended if a state cannot gain access to a site to do damage assessments and estimates of repair costs, the agency says.

After the 180-day time frame, FHWA can reimburse states for 90% of the costs of repairs on Interstate highways and 80% of repair costs for other highways.

FHWA typically moves quickly to release such emergency funds after storms and other natural disasters.