WASHINGTON, D.C. - U.S. Senator Pat Toomey (R-Pa.) wants to help repair America's disaster-damaged roads and bridges in a timely manner.
He has filed an amendment to the transportation bill that may be considered this week to facilitate the reconstruction of damaged roads, highways, bridges, rail bridges, and transit facilities after disasters by exempting these repair projects from additional environmental reviews which are now mandated.
"I have witnessed the damage a natural disaster, like a tropical storm, can have on a community," said Sen. Toomey. "In the aftermath of these events, relief efforts to repair homes and businesses are often stymied due to significant roadway damage. To get help quickly to the victims, states and municipalities should be able to make essential infrastructure-based repairs without having to navigate excessive red tape. After all, if you had a permit for the original bridge or road and you are simply rebuilding it in the same place, why should another permit be needed?"
Sen. Toomey's proposal is similar to one offered by former-Sen. Ben Nelson (D-Neb.) during the 2012 transportation bill debate and is being supported by the County Commissioners Association of Pa., the Pennsylvania State Association of Township Supervisors, the Pennsylvania State Association of Boroughs, and SEPTA.
"Sen. Toomey's amendment is a common-sense approach to reduce costs and burdensome delays for state and local governments in the aftermath of disasters," said Commissioner Malcolm Derk, Snyder County. "This approach will save taxpayer dollars and allow for an efficient and speedy recovery in rebuilding our vital infrastructure."
"This is an amendment that will help Dauphin County and other counties across the country deal with the timely repair of roads and bridges following a disaster without cumbersome and unnecessary federal bureaucratic barriers. Thank you to Sen. Toomey for his leadership on this issue," said Commissioner George Hartwick, Dauphin County.
Counties own and are responsible for more than 4,000 bridges over 20' in length, and many more shorter spans. Our bridges are necessary to get families to work, goods to market, and children to school. For some time it has been a priority for us to expedite the permitting process when repairs or replacements are necessary for these bridges. And the need for prompt repair or replacement is critical when the structure is damaged in an emergency. The proposed amendment strikes an appropriate balance by extending the permit exemption just to bridges that are purely like-kind repair or replacement for the existing damaged structure, and are damaged in a declared disaster," said Douglas E. Hill, Executive Director County Commissioners Association of Pa.
"Boroughs throughout Pennsylvania support common-sense language offered in Senator Toomey's amendment. When disaster strikes residents need assistance as soon as possible. Borough police, fire and EMS need to respond too and without safe local bridges, passable streets and accessible roadways getting life back to normal becomes much more difficult," said Ed Troxell, Director of Government Affairs for the Pennsylvania State Association of Boroughs.