Press Release

Gillibrand Announces “Resilient Highways Act” to Give New York State and States Across the Country More Flexibility to Use Federal Funding to Protect Bridges and Highways from Sea Level Rise, Extreme Weather, and Climate Change

Jul 29, 2019

Washington, DC – U.S. Senator Kirsten Gillibrand, a member of the Senate Environment and Public Works Committee Subcommittee on Transportation and Infrastructure, today announced new legislation to provide more flexibility for New York State and states across the country to use their federal transportation funding for projects that make bridges and highways more resilient to the impacts of sea-level rise, extreme weather, and climate change. Gillibrand’s Resilient Highways Act of 2019 would incentivize investments in strengthening highway infrastructure to protect against future floods and natural disasters, saving money in the long-term.

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. Gillibrand’s Resilient Highways Act of 2019 is expected to be marked up this week in the Senate Environment and Public Works Committee as part of America’s Transportation Infrastructure Act of 2019, which reauthorizes federal highways programs.

“Families and business owners across our state are already seeing firsthand the enormous damage that rising sea levels and extreme weather – the consequences of climate change – are having on our roads and bridges,” said Senator Gillibrand. “Congress has a responsibility to make sure our states have the resources they need to protect their most essential infrastructure from the worst damage, and that’s what the Resilient Highways Act would help do. I’m proud to introduce this urgently needed bill and pleased it was included in America’s Transportation Infrastructure Act of 2019 that will be marked up in the Senate Environment and Public Works Committee this week.”

According to a recent World Bank report, every dollar spent on resilient infrastructure saves four dollars. Specifically, the Resilient Highways Act of 2019 would do the following:

·         Allow states to use up to 15 percent 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 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 bill may be found here.