U.S. Transportation Secretary Anthony Foxx announced the immediate availability of $1 million in federal emergency relief funds to Puerto Rico to repair flood-damaged roads and bridges in and around El Yunque National Forest. The Federal Highway Administration's Emergency Relief program provides funding for highways and bridges damaged by natural disasters or catastrophic events.
“These funds represent a down payment on our commitment to the people of Puerto Rico,” said Secretary Foxx. “These damaged roads are central to helping residents, businesses and tourists get to and from one of the island’s biggest attractions, and we will do everything we can to help the area rebuild.”
On May 10, 2014, heavy rains in Rio Grande, Puerto Rico — about 15 miles east of San Juan — flooded numerous roads and produced several landslides, severely damaging PR-191, the highway which provides the main access to the forest. As a result of the storm, several portions of PR-191 will need to be fully reconstructed.
“Emergency relief funding will make immediate repairs possible and allow the roads to open again,” said Deputy Federal Highway Administrator Gregory Nadeau. “We want to ensure that everyone in Puerto Rico has access to this important part of the island, and that travel can return to normal in El Yunque National Forest as soon as possible.”
The funding will allow the Puerto Rico Highways and Transportation Administration to move quickly to begin repair work and restore essential traffic while working with the Federal Highway Administration to determine the full extent of the damage. Cost estimates for damage are not yet complete.
El Yunque National Forest, which has been a Federal Forest Reserve since 1903, receives an estimated 1.25 million visitors each year.