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U.S. Department of Transportation U.S. Department of Transportation Icon United States Department of Transportation United States Department of Transportation

FTA Hurricane & Natural Disaster Response

During hurricane season, FTA remains prepared to help transit agencies in affected areas provide rescue, recovery and transport services. In addition, FTA can waive certain regulations following any presidential emergency declaration. If you are a transit agency affected by a hurricane or other natural disaster and would like FTA to share your social media updates, please tag us on Facebook or Twitter (@FTA_DOT) so that we can help you get the word out about service updates.

Emergency Relief from FTA Regulatory Requirements


Transit agencies may take actions, such as providing service for evacuations, returning evacuees from shelters to their homes, transporting utility workers, and providing service to shelter residents, as long as these actions are directly related to a declaration of emergency by the President, governor, or mayor, without triggering the charter rule. Transit agencies may provide such services for up to 45 days from the declaration of emergency. 

If transit agencies need to provide the type of emergency transportation services described above past those dates, they must follow the procedures set out in 49 CFR Part 601, Subpart D – Emergency Procedures for Public Transportation Systems.

The National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA)

In accordance with 23 CFR 771.118(c)(11), FTA has determined that certain activities related to repairing transportation facilities damaged by an incident resulting in a Presidential disaster or emergency declaration are categorical exclusions and normally do not require any further NEPA approvals by FTA. These actions include:

  • Emergency repairs under 49 U.S.C. 5324 (FTA’s Emergency Relief Program)
  • The repair, reconstruction, restoration, retrofitting, or replacement of any road, highway, bridge, tunnel, or transit facility (such as a ferry dock or bus transfer station), including ancillary transportation facilities (such as pedestrian/bicycle paths and bike lanes), that is in operation or under construction when damaged and the action:
    • Occurs within the existing right-of-way and in a manner that substantially conforms to the preexisting design, function, and location as the original (which may include upgrades to meet existing codes and standards as well as upgrades warranted to address conditions that have changed since the original construction)
    • Commences within a two-year period beginning on the date of the declaration


In accordance with the planning regulation (23 CFR part 450), emergency relief projects that do not involve substantial functional, locational, or capacity changes are not required to be in the Transportation Improvement Program (TIP) or Statewide Transportation Improvement Program (STIP).


Generally, procurement of goods and services by transit agencies must be completed via a competitive procurement. However, the Uniform Guidance at 2 CFR 200.320 permits sole source contracting when the public exigency or emergency for the requirement will not permit a delay resulting from competitive solicitation; or the federal awarding agency expressly authorizes noncompetitive proposals in response to a written request from the transit agency.

The recipient must document its sole source justification in writing. FTA encourages grant recipients considering a sole source based on exigency or emergency to contact their FTA regional office for technical assistance and/or express authorization of a noncompetitive proposal.

For more information:

Bonnie L. Graves, Attorney-Advisor
Office of Chief Counsel
Federal Transit Administration
(202) 366-0944

Emergency Relief Program

FTA's Emergency Relief (ER) Program is intended for states and transit agencies that may be affected by a declared emergency or disaster and want to seek funding. See the ER Program guide -- particularly the frequently asked questions on page 59. 

Should your agency be affected by a declared emergency, it is important that all expenses related to disaster response before, during, and after the event be documented so that they can be evaluated for reimbursement eligibility if disaster or emergency relief funding is made available. The major data points that should be tracked include:

  • the type of any emergency transportation services being provided, including the number and type of vehicles, the number of trips provided, the number of passengers transported, the dates and hours of service, and any fares collected for emergency transportation services
  • emergency protective measures put in place to protect transit assets and/or personnel
  • damages to vehicles, facilities, or equipment
  • any temporary or permanent repairs made to damaged vehicles, facilities, or equipment

Additionally, FTA publishes an annual Emergency Relief Docket so that grantees and subgrantees affected by national or regional emergencies may request temporary relief from FTA administrative and statutory requirements.

For more information:

Tom Wilson
FTA Emergency Relief Program
Office of Program Management
(202) 366-5279

FEMA Public Assistance Program

The FEMA Public Assistance (PA) program reimburses state and local governments, federally recognized tribes and certain private nonprofit organizations in designated counties for eligible expenses incurred before, during and after an emergency on a cost-share basis. This money helps pay for efforts to protect people and property, restore power, repair roads and clean up neighborhoods. Transit providers are advised that any emergency related expenses reimbursed by FEMA are not eligible for reimbursement by FTA’s Emergency Relief Program should funding be made available. If funding is made available for FTA’s Emergency Relief Program, FTA assumes primary responsibility for reimbursing transit related emergency relief expenses. Learn more about FEMA PA grants and Direct Federal Assistance.