FILE PHOTO – Utah Capitol by Chris An on Unsplash

SALT LAKE CITY – Utah is in line for a piece of $7.3 billion of federal funding for roads, bridges and rail lines.

The funding was announced by Gov. Spencer Cox and U.S. Transportation Secretary Pete Buttigieg today at a joint ceremony in Salt Lake City.

The federal Promoting Resilient Operations for Transformative, Efficient and Cost-Saving Transportation (PROTECT) Formula is part of President Joe Biden’s recently enacted $1.2 trillion infrastructure package.

The PROTECT program will make our transportation system and critical infrastructure more resilient against floods, fires and other natural disasters,” Cox said. “It will also give us resources to plan ahead for the future.”

“In every part of the country, climate change is impacting roads, bridges and rail lines that Americans rely on – endangering homes, lives and livelihoods in the process,” Buttigieg explained.

“Using funds from President Biden’s Bipartisan Infrastructure Law, we’re launching an unprecedented effort to help communities protect their transportation infrastructure from extreme weather and improve routes that first responders and fire fighters need during disasters.”

The PROTECT funding will help states focus on resilience planning; make improvements to existing transportation networks and evacuation routes; and address at-risk highway infrastructure.

In general, projects eligible for the $7.3 billion in federal funding will be highway and transit projects; bicycle and pedestrian facilities; port facilities; and other efforts to improve evacuations or disaster relief.

Buttigieg said that Utah is expected to receive an estimated $65 million in PROTECT funds. The state will determine where to use those funds, he added.

Preparation makes all the difference in response to emergency situations, according to Carlos Braceras, the executive director of the Utah Department of Transportation.

“Our crews work with first responders and communities to protect against road damage and debris cause by weather emergencies,” Braceras said. “We move quickly when a challenge arises.

The PROTECT program will help us do even more to proactively improve transportation resilience and ensure that we can keep our roads open and, above all, safe.”

This is Buttigieg’s first trip to Salt Lake City since being confirmed by the U.S. Senate as secretary of transportation.

Buttigieg is a former mayor of South Bend, IN. He ran unsuccessfully against Biden in the 2020 presidential campaign.

Buttigieg is the first openly gay cabinet secretary in U.S. history and the youngest member of Biden’s cabinet.

Cox said that he appreciated the effect that the PROTECT funds will have on Utah communities – especially those in rural areas.

“We are grateful to Sec. Buttigieg and our federal partners for supporting this bipartisan solution,” Cox added. “We need more of this kind of collaborative problem-solving in Washington.”

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