(BCN) — California Sen. Alex Padilla joined Texas Sen. John Cornyn and other legislative leaders Wednesday signing a bipartisan letter urging the U.S. Department of Transportation to give states more time to use relief funds for transportation repair projects after natural disasters.

The letter asks the transportation agency to extend the initial deadline for beginning construction after a disaster, which is now by the end of the second fiscal year following the year of a disaster.

Given the complexity of conducting repair work, there are often delays caused by environmental evaluation, litigation or right-of-way acquisition. States including California and Texas think a two-year period for preparation is inadequate.

The letter outlines the concerns that the department of transportation may claw back emergency relief funding for highway and public transit projects if they don’t initiate by the deadline.

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“We urge you to review and update regulations that jeopardize the availability of emergency relief funds in the aftermath of natural disasters and catastrophic events,” reads the letter to Secretary Pete Buttigieg.

The request for more flexibility is also in light of the transportation agency’s rigorous review of extension applications. In 2019, the Federal Highway Administration denied 66 out of Caltrans’ 73 requests for one-year extensions to carry out projects using more than $25 million in federal funding from its Emergency Relief program.

The lawmakers are urging the Department of Transportation to extend the construction start deadline to the end of the fourth fiscal year following the year that the disaster occurred.

The text of the letter can be found at: https://www.padilla.senate.gov/wp-content/uploads/FINAL-Letter-to-DOT-Extend-Emergency-Relief-Program-Construction-Deadline.pdf

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