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4 Puerto Rico towns receive $23M from FEMA for road repairs

The funding will support infrastructure damaged by hurricanes María and Fiona.

The municipalities of Cayey, San Germán, Utuado and Yabucoa, Puerto Rico have received more than $23 million in funding from the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) to repair roads damaged by hurricanes María and Fiona. 

These funds also include resources for mitigation measures to prevent similar damage in the event of future disasters. 

“Roads are a vital part of the country, especially in emergency situations when access to a particular route can prevent accidents and even save lives,” said José Baquero, FEMA’s disaster recovery coordinator for Puerto Rico. “The funds that FEMA allocates to repair roads not only help provide safe access to our communities, schools or hospitals, but will also help reduce the wear and tear on our cars by driving on roads in better condition.” 

To date, FEMA has obligated approximately $33.8 billion for nearly 11,000 recovery projects on the island in the aftermath of Hurricane María. Of these funds, more than $2.4 billion are allocated for road repairs. 

Similarly, about $812 million have been obligated for nearly 2,000 projects following Hurricane Fiona, of which more than $466 million are designated for roads.

The repairs will include removing and replacing asphalt, curbs and sidewalks; repairing embankments; and replacing gabions and guardrails. Mitigation measures mostly consist of pavement reinforcement, drainage repairs for runoff control and incorporating bioengineering techniques to transform normal gabions into green gabions. 

These are made with galvanized baskets filled with filler stone, topsoil and planted with deep-rooted grass to filter water, regulate its flow and reduce soil erosion, thereby stabilizing embankments and restoring vegetation in affected areas. 

Almost $8 million was allocated to Utuado to repair a municipal road that provides access to a residential area in the Roblegar sector. Of these funds, more than $670,000 was allocated for hazard mitigation measures. 

According to Utuado’s alternate contact for federal programs, Héctor Cruz-Cruz, these repairs are crucial as they provide the only access route for about 10 families to Highway 10 in the town. 

“Awarding federal funds is the municipality’s highest priority to address and manage the damage and ensure vehicle traffic,” Cruz-Cruz said. “This is of great importance for the benefit of the residents; to provide a safe and efficient roadway for their safety. By having adequate and safe roads they can have basic services, such as being able to go to the hospital and do their shopping.” 

Cayey will repair several roads in the Caña 1, 2 and 3 sectors, Caña Los Valdíos in the Farallón neighborhood, in Caña Frente and in the Quebrada Arriba sector with an obligation of more than $6 million, including about $588,000 for mitigation measures. 

Sherileen Rivera-Muñiz, municipal programs director, explained that these roads provide access to the town and that there are small merchants in both neighborhoods who were affected by the damage and will benefit from the repairs, as they will provide safety for residents and visitors alike. 

“Public roads are of vital importance for our citizens to be able to move throughout the city, which results in economic and social development. In addition, having the road infrastructure in the best conditions ensures the life and safety of everyone, as well as their access to health care and other services in their daily lives,” Rivera-Muñiz added. 

In Yabucoa, more than $2.5 million was allocated for road repairs in the Calabazas neighborhood, with more than $490,000 for mitigation measures. 

Yabucoa Finance Director Pedro Crespo explained that the project will benefit 800 residents and covers the Santa María neighborhood, the Rincón sector and two roads in the community of Calabazas Arriba. He added that the Santa María and the Rincón sector are in the design contracting stage, while in Calabazas Arriba part of the damage was already repaired.

“In the case of the Rincón sector, the area suffered greater damage in Hurricane Fiona compared to María. Some damage was temporarily addressed because of the hazardous access,” Crespo said. 

San Germán received nearly $7 million to repair roads in the Cotuí neighborhood, with more than $439,500 for mitigation measures. These funds will help repair roads in rural areas crucial for community access.

Manuel Laboy, executive director of the Central Office for Recovery, Reconstruction and Resiliency (COR3), highlighted the Working Capital Advance (WCA) program’s role in expediting construction. The program delivers FEMA funds in advance. 

“For example, in Utuado, the Working Capital program has advanced some $6,041,833, and Yabucoa has received $5,824,722. This is the same for many other municipalities developing road projects,” Laboy said. “These road projects are part of 3,000 completed works and another 9,000 underway on public roads, bridges, the electrical system, the potable water and sewage system, sports and recreational facilities, among other public facilities throughout Puerto Rico.” 

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