President Obama, joined by Vice President Joe Biden and U.S. Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood, today, March 3, marked the release of $26.6 billion from the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act (ARRA) to states and local transportation authorities to repair and build highways, roads and bridges. The release of the funds came eight days earlier than required by law and took place before more than 500 headquarter employees at the U.S. Department of Transportation.
“President Obama is keeping his promise to the American people, and he is doing it ahead of schedule,” LaHood said. “This is a long-overdue investment in our transportation infrastructure and in jobs for Americans.” LaHood noted that some of the money would be used the same day at a site in Montgomery County, Md., where crews had just started road repairs on a one-mile stretch of Route 650.
USDOT said state highway departments already have identified more than 100 other transportation projects across the country, totaling more than $750 million, where construction can start within the month; that number is expected to grow substantially as more states submit certifications and begin to receive project approvals.
Each proposed project must be approved by the Federal Highway Administration, and each state’s governor must certify that their proposed projects meet certain conditions and that the state will use ARRA funds in addition to, and not to replace, state funding of transportation projects. USDOT will monitor state compliance and track job creation; the projects will be Web-posted for the public to see with information on projects accessible at www.recovery.gov.
At the ceremony, Obama also unveiled new logos for governmentwide projects completed under the ARRA and the Transportation Investments Generating Economic Recovery (TIGER) logo for transportation projects completed under the ARRA. Those attending the signing ceremony at USDOT were members of the TIGER team LaHood created to oversee disbursement of the money and ensure that all transparency and accountability requirements are being met. The team is composed of officials from across USDOT’s operating administrations and offices and is co-chaired by Lana Hurdle, deputy assistant secretary for budget and programs, and Joel Szabat, deputy assistant secretary for transportation policy.
Obama’s visit marks the first by a sitting U.S. president with his vice president to USDOT headquarters. Obama is the third sitting president to visit the department, following George W. Bush in 2008 and Ronald Reagan in 1981.