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$261 million bridge scour program advances for federal action

ABANY – Fifty-four additional scour-critical bridges have progressed to the next stage for federal action through the Hazard Mitigation Grant Program (HMGP). This follows the Governor’s call for the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) to review the initial round of 51 bridges on May 8, 2014 (view here) and completes New York State’s request for support for the 105-bridge program. The total cost of the program will be $518 million. Once complete the bridge scour program will protect and strengthen critical transportation routes across the State, assuring transportation access in emergencies and confirming New York’s commitment to providing corridors for continued economic growth.

“These bridges serve as vital lifelines for New Yorkers, especially during times of severe weather events which unfortunately has become the new reality in this state,” Governor Andrew Cuomo said. “This essential program will enable us to strengthen these bridges while extending their service life for New Yorkers who rely on them.”

In June 2013, Governor Cuomo announced a call for projects to be funded by the HMGP program to assist local governments and non-profit organizations to rebuild stronger, more sustainable communities. Authorized by FEMA, the program aims to increase the State’s resiliency, reduce hardship, and mitigate the risks of loss and damage associated with future disasters. The bridge scour program is the product of an unprecedented collaboration between the State’s Department of Transportation (DOT), Division of Homeland Security and Emergency Services (DHSES), Governor’s Office of Storm Recovery (GOSR), and dozens of local governments, and puts New York State at the cutting edge of innovative flood recovery and mitigation activities.

Storm Recovery Director James Rubin said, “Upgrading these bridges is not an expense, it is a vital investment in New York’s future. Our forward-looking approach will enable them to better withstand the effects of nature which can be severe in these parts of the State.”

Bridge scour erodes and carries away foundation materials such as sand and rocks from around and beneath bridge abutments, piers, foundations and embankments. Upgrading these bridges will ensure access to emergency services during and after flood events and reduce the risk of flooding where bridge openings cause rivers and streams to back up.

The 54 scour-critical bridges in this application round have been identified by the State DOT as most at risk from repeated flooding are in the Capital District, Long Island, Mid-Hudson, Mohawk Valley, North Country, Finger Lakes, Central/Western and Southern Tier regions. All of the bridges included in this program of upgrades and retrofits were built to the codes and standards of their time and remain safe and open for everyday traffic. However, due to a variety of natural severe weather events and the increasing frequency of major storms and floods, they are now vulnerable to scour caused by the intensity and velocity of water from extreme natural events.

The 54 bridges in the scour program being recommended today will cost more than $261 million dollars, of which $196 million will be paid for by FEMA if approved through the Hazard Mitigation Grant Program. The total cost of the program, including all 105 bridges across the state, will be $518 million, of which $388 million would be paid through the Hazard Mitigation Grant Program. Completion of the program will afford the residents of 78 communities within 30 counties across the State of New York continued access to these critical lifesaving services in the event of an emergency. Additionally, through the improvement of these structures, adverse impacts to travel throughout the State will be greatly reduced during severe weather resulting in excess volumes of water.