Thousands of cases of road damage reported in Puerto Rico
SAN JUAN – Puerto Rico Transportation Secretary Carlos Contreras said Wednesday that after Hurricane María, more than 1,500 cases of damage to the island’s roads have been logged, not counting traffic lights, which were declared useless.
“We have already decided that instead of going one by one, [we chose to] say all traffic lights have problems because the [damage can range from the device itself] to fallen supports…. But basically all the intersections with traffic lights are going to require some kind of work…. So we grouped them all as a single incident,” Contreras said, noting there were still areas yet to be assessed.
With regard to the island’s highways, Contreras said most of the problems found were in the Highway Performance Monitoring System (HPMS) network, for which Federal Highway Administration funds could be used to make repairs.
“We are asking for a quick release so they free up $40 million,” he said. “But we are estimating that total claims amount to $240 million for roadways. That’s without having seen some things.”
Then the U.S. Department of Transportation’s Federal Highway Administration (FHWA) announced the immediate availability of $40 million in “quick release” Emergency Relief (ER) funds.
The funds supplement the $2.5 million in ER funds awarded to the island for damages related to Hurricane Irma.
“It is critical to get the island’s infrastructure in working condition as soon as possible so relief supplies and other assistance can be delivered to the people of Puerto Rico,” U.S. Transportation Secretary Elaine Chao said.
Two contracts were bid this week for repairing La Virgencita bridge in Toa Alta and the bridge that connects Juana Díaz and Ponce.
Regarding operations at Drivers Service Centers [Cescos by its Spanish acronym], Contreras said some, such as Guayama’s, were destroyed and none have electricity.
“We still don’t have an approximate date for when we will start operating again,” he said “I signed a resolution extending the validity of inspection stickers and driver’s licenses until we can start again.”
The resolution doesn’t apply to airports because DTOP cannot ask authorities to allow people to travel with expired licenses. People whose licenses have expired and need to travel must contact DTOP to see how they can be assisted.
Meanwhile, the Maritime Shipping Authority is operating with certain restrictions because the buoys that indicate where vessels navigate were damaged by the storm.
The Metropolitan Bus Authority (AMA by its Spanish acronym) is expected to resume operations Monday, despite damages to its fleet, terminals and headquarters.
Contreras assured no fines would be issued for driving through highway tolls with creditless accounts, but the toll was being charged.