LaHood, state DOT officials discuss economic recovery spending

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U.S. Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood met Wednesday, Feb. 11, with leaders of state departments of transportation from across the country in preparation for final passage of the economic recovery bill.

“The upshot of these meetings is that we have thousands of worthwhile transportation projects that are ready to go,” LaHood said. “They’ve cleared all the hurdles and just need the funding. The U.S. Department of Transportation is ready to get the money out the door. We now need the Congress to pass a final bill.”

The meeting, which took place in the Eisenhower Executive Office Building, came one day after the U.S. Senate approved the Recovery and Reinvestment Act; the House passed its version on Jan. 28. Both bills now go to a House-Senate conference committee where the differences in the legislation will be resolved.

North Carolina Secretary of Transportation Eugene Conti, one of more than 40 state transportation heads at the meeting, said that NCDOT, along with other transportation departments across the nation, has been working to identify projects that would both improve the transportation system and create needed jobs. “This funding is key to helping us address the growing economic and infrastructure challenges we are currently facing,” Conti said.

LaHood said the bills passed provide about $46 billion for transportation infrastructure, including up to $30 billion for highways, $12 billion for transit, $3.1 billion for passenger rail and $3 billion for airports. In addition, the Senate bill also includes $5.5 billion for a supplemental discretionary grant program. Eligible projects include highways and bridges, public transit, passenger and freight rail transportation and port infrastructure.

LaHood told participants that accountability would be one of his highest priorities and that his Transportation Investment Generating Economic Recovery (TIGER) team would be monitoring all aspects of the recovery funding closely. The TIGER team, composed of officials from across USDOT’s operating administrations and offices, is co-chaired by Lana Hurdle, deputy assistant secretary for budget and programs, and Joel Szabat, deputy assistant secretary for transportation policy.