SALT LAKE CITY (ABC4) – On Friday at the Utah State Capitol, U.S. Secretary of Transportation Pete Buttigieg and Governor Spencer Cox announced the $7 billion “Promoting Resilient Operations for Transformative, Efficient, and Cost-Saving Transportation” or PROTECT Formula Program. 

The program is part of the Bipartisan Infrastructure Law, which over the next five years will give Utah over $2.5 billion to improve our bridges, roads, public transportation and more. 

The PROTECT program will give Utah up to $65 million dollars over the next five years to invest in infrastructure specifically created to withstand the effects of natural disasters. And though it’ll help improve our response to things like wildfires and floods, Governor Cox said it’s still not enough. 

“There’s never been a program like this,” Buttigieg said. 

The funding will go specifically to improving infrastructure for natural disasters.

Utah’s main area of concern? Burn scars and canyons. 

“We never have enough funding to do as much of it as we need to, to protect from the next storm that is coming,” Cox said. 

Gov. Cox cites the 2017 Brian Head fire as an example of state infrastructure not prepared for when disaster struck. The fire left an over 71,000-acre burn scar. 

At the time, UDOT had to invest over 2 million dollars to build drainage infrastructure, walls, and weather monitoring systems for inevitable flooding, Governor Cox noting that money could’ve gone to other places.  

But just yesterday when rain came to the same burn scar area, that investment paid off. 

“UDOT and Brian Head City were able to clear the road in about three hours compared around 24 hours in 2017,” Cox said. 

Now with new funding, Utah can handle disasters faster. 

“We don’t have time to debate whether this is urgent anymore we have to have to get to work and we are,” Buttigieg said. 

And while this funding will give the state more breathing room to prepare, Governor Cox notes it’s still not enough 

“While we very much appreciate the money that will be coming in, it’s not enough, there’s still so much more to do,” Cox said. 

Utah is set to receive $12 million this year. Governor Cox said every year Utah receives funding, the state will work on new projects.