Newly sworn in St. Petersburg Mayor Ken Welch Friday announced he plans to tap into the U.S. Department of Transportation’s just-launched Bridge Replacement, Rehabilitation, Preservation, Protection, and Construction Program to fund city infrastructure projects.
The Joe Biden administration announced the creation of the Bridge Formula Program Friday as part of President Biden’s bipartisan infrastructure law. Some $49 million of the $5.3 billion being made available to states in 2022 will be allotted to Florida. The program is funded at around $27 billion over the next five years. Florida will get about $245 million for bridges over that five-year period. And unlike previous grant programs that required a 20% match, the Bridge Formula Program offers 100% compensation for bridge programs.
“As one of my top priorities, infrastructure improvement is crucial to improving safety on our local roads and many bridges located in a coastal community,” Welch said in a Friday news release. “I am excited to pursue opportunities for federal funding to help make this vision a reality.”
Welch said improving the city’s infrastructure and climate resiliency is among his top priorities. Deputy Federal Highway Administrator Stephanie Pollack said this program helps with both. In addition to enhancing safety for motorists, pedestrians and cyclists, she said the funding also allows for bridge modernization to harden infrastructure against the effects of sea level rise and climate change.
St. Petersburg has 82 vehicular bridges. Ten are considered a top priority for replacement and repair and two new bridges — one at 40th Avenue and one at Martin Luther King Jr. Street and Booker Creek — are under construction. The cost of repairs to the city’s 10 priority bridges alone is estimated at over $54 million.
“This new funding announcement could not have come at a better time,” St. Pete Transportation Director Evan Mory said. “The additional funding represents an opportunity to help sustain the positive momentum we’ve created with the help of our partners at the FDOT and continue delivering critical infrastructure investments that will serve our residents for generations to come.”
U.S. Transportation Secretary Pete Buttigieg said the program represents the “single largest dedicated bridge investment since the construction of the interstate highway system.” The program will be run by the Federal Highway Administration.