PROTECT funds support resilient infrastructure to respond to extreme weather eventsAug 12, 2022 01:58PM ● By Tom Haraldsen
Heavy rainstorms caused flooding along Hwy 89 in Bountiful last week. Funding will help UDOT protect the roads against weather and keep them open. Photo by Tina Sherman Beavers
SALT LAKE CITY—This past weekend, Davis County was pummeled with rain that caused flooding in some areas. Last month, a wildfire above Centerville burned several acres of land and threatened homes. Along with all of that, Utah has been experiencing a severe drought and record breaking temperatures. How will this impact roads, bridges and other modes of transportation?
U.S. Transportation Secretary Pete Buttigieg joined Gov. Spencer Cox last week to announce President Biden’s PROTECT (Promoting Resilient Operations for Transformative, Efficient and Cost-Saving Transportation) program to help support resilient infrastructure. The $7.3 billion in formula funding is intended to help states and communities become better prepared for and respond to extreme weather events.
“In Utah we have extreme weather such as rain storms in several areas of the state and wildfires that create major burn scars,” said Utah Department of Transportation (UDOT) Director of Public Relations, John Gleason. “This funding will help us protect the roads against the weather and keep them open and operating so people can get where they need to be and get home safely and get off the road if they need to.”
There was the massive flood on SR143 that kept crews from responding immediately, he said. “The wildfire at Brian Head in 2017 burned 7,100 acres and created a burn scar leaving SR143 and SR20 vulnerable to flash flooding and landslides. It took 24 hours of clearing to get to I-15. This funding would allow us to continue to protect our roads and free up money for transportation.”
The biggest challenge is drainage infrastructure, Gleason said. “We have weather monitoring technology and walls that help protect roads in susceptible areas.”
Projects that are eligible for the $7.3 billion in formula funding include transit and highway projects, pedestrian and bicycle facilities and port facilities and those that help improve evacuations or disaster relief, according to a release. States will decide where to use the funds.
“In every part of the country, climate change is impacting roads, bridges and rail lines that Americans rely on – endangering homes, lives and livelihoods in the process,” Buttigieg said. “Using funds from President Biden’s Bipartisan Infrastructure Law, we’re launching this unprecedented effort to help communities protect their transportation infrastructure from extreme weather and improve routes that first responders and firefighters need during disasters.”
Preparation makes all the difference in emergency response, said UDOT Executive Director Carlos Braceras. “Our crews work with first responders and communities to protect against road damage and debris caused by weather emergencies and we move quickly when a challenge arises. The PROTECT program will help us do even more to proactively improve transportation resilience and ensure we can keep our roads open and above all, safe.”
“We’re always working to improve safety,” said Gleason. “Big snowstorms, windstorms, rain, those are all things we factor in to keep roads as safe as they can be.”λ