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FEMA: $13M invested in 4 resilient bridges in Puerto Rico

Federal funds allocated to strengthen infrastructure in Barranquitas, Jayuya, San Sebastián and Villalba.

Four bridges in the Puerto Rican towns of Barranquitas, Jayuya, San Sebastián, and Villalba, rebuilt with funds from the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA), have demonstrated resilience against several natural disasters since their repair, according to a news release from the agency. Nearly $13 million from FEMA was used for their reconstruction, which was necessary because runoff from Hurricane María had nearly destroyed the original infrastructure.

To date, FEMA has allocated more than $2.4 billion for more than 3,000 bridges and roadway projects across Puerto Rico.

The funding included more than $8.6 million for hazard mitigation, allowing the redesign and reconstruction of low water crossings into concrete and steel bridges to strengthen them and maintain access for residents during future disasters.

“These projects are a sample of permanent works already completed, where mitigation funds were invested to build improved structures that proved to be more resistant and safer for the residents,” said José Baquero, FEMA’s disaster recovery coordinator for Puerto Rico.

One of the bridges transformed by the investment is the low water crossing in the Abrahonda sector of the Cibao neighborhood in San Sebastián. FEMA allocated nearly $5.2 million for this project, as the original structure was destroyed by the strong currents of the Guajataca River during Hurricane María. About $4.8 million of the total funds were used to replace the remaining bridge with an elevated bridge.

Puerto Rico Transportation Secretary Eileen Vélez-Vega said the mitigation works have two main objectives: increasing resilience to future natural disasters and meeting the transportation needs of the communities.

FEMA also allocated funds to repair a low water crossing in the Cerro Gordo sector of the Caonillas Abajo neighborhood in Villalba. The agency obligated nearly $2.3 million to rebuild the structure destroyed by Hurricane María’s continuous rains.

“This caused an unprecedented emergency by leaving the Cerro Gordo community and adjacent areas cut off from assistance during and after the emergency,” said Villalba Municipal Secretary Orlando Negrón-García. 

This bridge is used by residents of the Cerro Gordo, La Cruz and Quebrada María sectors of Villalba, and part of Coamo.

The low water crossing was replaced with a two-lane elevated bridge, allowing runoff to flow during heavy rains. Nearly $1.2 million of the total funds addressed these hazard mitigation measures. 

Similarly, a bridge located on PR-770 in Barranquitas was rebuilt to withstand future floods and hurricanes. FEMA allocated more than $3.6 million to the Transportation and Public Works Department (DTOP, in Spanish) to demolish the concrete low water crossing and and more than $2 million to convert it into an elevated bridge with a pedestrian sidewalk that allows the natural flow of the Cañabón River.

Finally, more than $1.7 million supported the reconstruction of another low water crossing in the Mameyes neighborhood in Jayuya, which was also devastated by runoff from Hurricane Maria. Nearly $700,000 was allocated to replace the bridge.

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