Of course the biggest loss in last months major storm that hit the northeast is the loss of life, but there was also a great loss of transportation infrastructure and the Department of Transportation is taking steps to make sure America’s vital network of roads and highways gets back on track.

U.S. Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood announced he is making $13 million in quick release emergency relief funds immediately available to New York and Rhode Island to help begin repairing the damage caused by Hurricane Sandy, helping bring relief to a major commercial truck artery.

The $13 million represents 100% of the state-requested funds – $10 million from New York and $3 million from Rhode Island. These two requests are just the first to arrive at the Department of Transportation and represent the first installment of federal-aid highway funds to help repair roads, bridges and tunnels in these two states. DOT is expecting other states impacted by Hurricane Sandy to apply for additional emergency relief funding in the coming days.

“President Obama has directed us to immediately help restore vital transportation infrastructure following this unprecedented and devastating storm – and that’s exactly what we’re doing,” said Secretary LaHood. “These emergency relief funds are just a down payment on our commitment to all of the states impacted by Hurricane Sandy.”

Quick release emergency funds provided by the U.S. Department of Transportation’s Federal Highway Administration will be used to pay for a variety of repairs to roads and bridges that are immediately necessary. Rhode Island will use the funding to repair damaged sea walls supporting roadways; New York will use it for general emergency repairs to federal aid highways.

To further speed access to critical repair funds, LaHood held a conference call Tuesday afternoon with officials from 14 impacted states to outline how they can apply for quick release emergency relief funding. Secretary LaHood also described other steps the Department of Transportation has taken to assist states, including an Eastern Regional Emergency Declaration from the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration to temporarily lift hours-of-service requirements and other regulations to assist interstate motor carrier drivers and operators providing direct emergency relief.

FHWA’s emergency relief program provides funds for the repair or reconstruction of federal-aid roads and bridges damaged by natural disasters or catastrophic events. Restoring critical infrastructure is essential to enabling first responders and relief workers to access impacted communities and to quickly restoring services to impacted residents.

Commercial trucks play an important part of the nation’s economy and any delay can have devastating affects. By releasing emergency funds for transportation damage, the U.S. government is recognizing the importance commercial trucks have in our society and why demand for professionally trained drivers continues to grow.