As the Senate negotiates a national infrastructure package, U.S. Senator Kirsten Gillibrand today introduced the Resilient Highways Act. The legislation would increase federal resources for New York State, and states across the country, to rebuild more resilient infrastructure and make critical improvements to protect bridges, tunnels, and highways against future damage from sea-level rise, floods, wildfires and other disasters. Additionally, the legislation would incentivize investments in highway infrastructure to protect against future floods and natural disasters, saving money in the long-term.
“Shoring up our roads, tunnels, and bridges to protect against the growing risks of climate change and natural disasters is more than an investment in our infrastructure, it’s an investment in our economy and local communities. Families and business owners across New York State have already seen firsthand the enormous damage that rising sea levels and extreme weather are having on local economies, roads and bridges,” said Senator Gillibrand. “Proactive investment in repairs, facilitated by the Resilient Highways Act, would not only strengthen our infrastructure but it would also bring in good paying jobs and save money on future repairs. Congress has a responsibility to ensure states have the resources they need to protect their most essential infrastructure from the worst damage, and that’s exactly what the Resilient Highways Act would help do.”
New York State has experienced significant infrastructure damage in recent years due to extreme weather like Superstorm Sandy, Hurricane Irene, and Tropical Storm Lee. This legislation would help states like New York better prepare their highway infrastructure for future risks by incorporating design features that protect against damage from flooding, storm surge, sea-level rise, and other climate impacts. The legislation could deliver resources to allow New York State to complete projects that improve infrastructure resiliency such as:
- Sauquoit Creek Flood Mitigation in the Mohawk Valley: The project would replace both the Route 69 and Main Street bridges over Sauquoit Creek in the Mohawk Valley, in the Town of Whitestown and Village of Whitesboro. These structures are prone to flooding and they have been contributing factors in five devastating extreme weather flooding events within from 2011-2019. The flooding has caused repeated damage to hundreds of nearby residential and commercial structures.
- Annsville Circle Elevation at Routes 6 and 9 in Westchester County: The project would improve the resiliency of the Annsville Circle in the Mid-Hudson Region by replacing culvert and elevating the Annsvile Circle to bring the area above of the 100 year flood elevation. This is a lifeline corridor which provides access to the New York Army National Guard Military Installation at Camp Smith and is a key trans-Hudson River crossing (the Bear Mountain Bridge).
- Acre Creek and Loughlin Road Bridge Replacements in Broome County: The project would repair the Interstate 81 and Route 17 bridges over Acre Creek and Loughlin Road in the Southern Tier. Both bridges are on New York State’s high-risk flood watch, which requires continuous observation when water levels rise. There are no detours capable of accommodating the high-volume interstate traffic on the bridges and the 6 mile long detour through the City of Binghamton would cause extreme traffic backups and delays. Acre Creek is a steep and very active stream which contributes to significant scour and erosion.
- Roadway Elevation in East Marion: The project would raise the road by 3 feet and replace NY 25 over Dam Pond inlet bridge to elevate the low-lying area and meet higher elevations at the project limits. NY Route 25 in the hamlet of East Marion is the only land-based access to the North Fork communities of Orient and Orient Point, several parks, and the ferries to Connecticut and Plum Island research facility east of the location. Loss of this roadway would restrict access to medical care and other basic necessities for over 600 housing units, affect interstate commerce, and isolate federal and state facilities in Orient and Plum Island. This area is approximately 3-4 feet above the apparent high tide elevation.
- Route 27A (Montauk Highway) bridge replacement over Amityville Creek.
A majority of America’s infrastructure is at risk of flooding. Gillibrand’s Resilient Highways Act would shore up the nation’s infrastructure, and economy, by raising and relocating roads out of flood risk or slide zones, constructing new protective features like drainage structures and scour protection, and using natural infrastructure to mitigate flood risk. Specifically, the Resilient Highways Act would do the following:
- Allow states to use up to 15% of the funds apportioned under the National Highway Performance Program for projects to mitigate the risk of recurring damage from extreme weather, flooding, and other natural disasters on infrastructure that is in the National Highway System. These include raising and relocating roadways out of flood or slide-prone areas, constructing new protective features like drainage structures and scour protection, and using natural infrastructure to mitigate flood risk.
- Incentivize states to include resiliency protective features in federally funded transportation projects and infrastructure by authorizing the federal cost-share for those features to be 100 percent.
- Make changes to the Federal Highway Administration’s Emergency Relief Program to authorize Emergency Relief funds to be used to pay for new protective features on highways, tunnels, and bridges when repairing and rebuilding infrastructure after a natural disaster. This will help ensure that states are not just rebuilding back what was lost, but that they are also making critical improvements to protect the infrastructure against future damage from floods, wildfires, and other disasters.
The full text of the legislation can be found here.