U.S. Department of Transportation
Federal Highway Administration
1200 New Jersey Avenue, SE
Washington, DC 20590
Susan Wimberly, Field Operations Team Leader
Description: Congress authorized in Title 23, United States Code, Section 125, a special program from the Highway Trust Fund for the repair or reconstruction of Federal-aid highways and roads on Federal lands which have suffered serious damage as a result of (1) natural disasters or (2) catastrophic failures from an external cause. This program, commonly referred to as the emergency relief or ER program, supplements the commitment of resources by States, their political subdivisions, or other Federal agencies to help pay for unusually heavy expenses resulting from extraordinary conditions. The applicability of the ER program to a natural disaster is based on the extent and intensity of the disaster. Damage to highways must be severe, occur over a wide area, and result in unusually high expenses to the highway agency. Applicability of ER to a catastrophic failure due to an external cause is based on the criteria that the failure was not the result of an inherent flaw in the facility but was sudden, caused a disastrous impact on transportation services, and resulted in unusually high expenses to the highway agency.
Funds Available: $100 million in annual authorization. By law, the FHWA can provide up to $100 million in ER funding to a State for each natural disaster or catastrophic failure that is found eligible for funding under the ER program (commonly referred to as the $100 million per State cap). Also, the total ER obligations for U.S. Territories (American Samoa, Commonwealth of Northern Mariana Islands, Guam, and Virgin Islands) is limited to $20 million in any fiscal year. For a large disaster that exceeds the $100 million per State cap, Congress may pass special legislation lifting the cap for that disaster.
Federal Share: Approved ER funds are available at the pro-rata share that would normally apply to the Federal-aid facility damaged. For Interstate highways, the Federal share is 90 percent. For all other highways, the Federal share is 80 percent. Emergency repair work to restore essential travel, minimize the extent of damage, or protect the remaining facilities, accomplished in the first 180 days after the disaster occurs, may be reimbursed at 100 percent Federal share.
How to Apply: It is the responsibility of individual States to request ER funds for assistance in the cost of necessary repair of Federal-aid highways damaged by natural disasters or catastrophic failures. A notice of intent to request ER funds filed by the State Department of Transportation with the FHWA Division Office located in the State will initiate the ER application process.
The Moving Ahead for Progress in the 21st Century Act (MAP-21) amended the eligibility of debris removal on Federal-aid highways under the ER Program. Additional information on MAP-21 changes to the ER program are addressed in a Question and Answer format at http://www.fhwa.dot.gov/map21/qandas/qaer.cfm.