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 WASHINGTON, Jan. 27 /PRNewswire/ -- Secretary of Transportation Federico Pena awarded California an additional $50 million in emergency funds today to assist Caltrans in meeting its accelerated highway reconstruction schedule, including repairing the Santa Monica Freeway, the nation's busiest, in six months, the U.S. Department of Transportation said.
 The $50 million awarded today is in addition to $45 million in emergency repair funds awarded last week. This $95 million total puts California near the legal cap of $100 million in emergency funds for which it is eligible. Congress must pass President Clinton's supplemental emergency funding request for the state to receive additional repair funds.
 "Transportation is vital to the quality of life and economy of not only California, but our entire nation, as the Midwest floods demonstrated last year," Pena told a hearing of the U.S. Senate Environment and Public Works Committee on the Los Angeles earthquake, the first Congressional hearing on the federal emergency response.
 Pena said the $1.35 billion in highway funds are needed so the California Department of Transportation (Caltrans) can continue a design and construction schedule to reopen most of the damaged major freeways in less than six months.
 "Last week, our department provided $45 million in emergency relief funds to California to demolish and clear the damaged structures and begin design and construction of the replacement structures," the transportation secretary said. "The accelerated reconstruction schedule makes the need for additional federal emergency funds even more urgent."
 The Federal Highway Administration provides 100 percent funding for work completed in the first 180 days on emergency repairs to interstate highways and approximately 90 percent of the funding for emergency repairs to federal-aid highways, such as State Route 118, the Simi Valley Freeway.
 The transportation secretary also pledged the Clinton/Gore administration's support for a bill proposed by U.S. Sen. Barbara Boxer (D-Calif.) which would increase the flexibility of the types of federal funds to be used to strengthen bridges to resist earthquake damage.
 The bill, S. 1789, would allow the use of Federal Highway Administration bridge funds for seismic retrofitting of bridges, whether or not the bridges are slated for replacement or rehabilitation.
 Pena outlined the DOT response to the earthquake, including cutting red tape to move emergency funds quickly and using a variety of innovative contracting procedures and other regulatory relief designed to cut repair times.
 Less than 12 hours after the earthquake struck, as the first cabinet official to arrive on the scene, Pena gave verbal approval to $3.6 million in demolition contracts to begin clearing the debris at the damaged freeways, work which began before nightfall.
 Pena also described the effort by federal, state and local officials to encourage commuters to carpool or try buses, transit and Metrolink commuter rail. The department provided additional funds to expand the capacity of the transit and commuter rail, including building temporary Metrolink stations in just three days.
 The Federal Highway Administration and Caltrans have announced the following freeway reconstruction schedule:
 -- I-10, the Santa Monica Freeway, the nation's busiest, carrying 300,000 vehicle daily, will be rebuilt in six months.
 -- I-5 Golden State Parkway's Gavin Canyon bridge will be rebuilt in six months. I-5 detour will reopen by this weekend, restoring 50 percent of pre-quake capacity.
 -- State Route 118, the Simi Valley Freeway, westbound lanes will be shored up in three or four days to reopen to traffic. Eastbound span will be rebuilt in six months. Traffic will then be shifted to eastbound span while the westbound span is rebuilt.
 -0- 1/27/94
 /NOTE TO EDITORS: Updated at 6 p.m. EST./
 /CONTACT: Jennifer Watson, 202-366-4570, or Steven Akey, 202-366-0660, both of the U.S. Department of Transportation/

CO: U.S. Department of Transportation; California Department of
 Transportation ST: District of Columbia, California IN: TRN SU: EXE LEG

DC-KW -- DC049 -- 7152 01/27/94 19:12 EST
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Publication:PR Newswire
Date:Jan 27, 1994

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