President Obama on Monday, April 13, announced funding for the 2,000th transportation project under the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act (ARRA), only six weeks after approving the first project. Obama made the remarks at the U.S. Department of Transportation with Vice President Joe Biden and Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood.
“Just 41 days ago, we announced funding for the first transportation project under ARRA, and today we’re approving the 2,000th project,” Obama said. “I am proud to utter the two rarest phrases in the English language – projects are being approved ahead of schedule, and they are coming in under budget.”
The 2,000th project is in Kalamazoo County, Mich. The $68 million project involves widening of Interstate 94 from two lanes both east and westbound to three lanes in each direction. The project is designed to improve safety and ease congestion by providing a more efficient interchange.
“The Recovery Act is being implemented with speed, transparency and accountability,” Biden said. “Don’t take my word for it – just look at what’s happening today. We have the 2000th transportation project now under way – that’s going to help create jobs, make it easier for folks to get to the jobs they have, and improve our nation’s infrastructure all at the same time. The Recovery Act is ‘full steam ahead’ on helping us build an economy for the 21st century.”
State departments of transportation across the country have reported to the Federal Highway Administration intense competition by contractors for ARRA projects. FHWA says bids have been roughly 15 to 20 percent lower on average, and as much as 30 percent lower in some cases, than engineers anticipated: For example, in Colorado, the state’s first five ARRA transportation projects announced on April 2 were 12 percent lower than anticipated; in Maine, one bridge project was 20 percent lower than estimated; and in Oregon, during February and March, bids have averaged 30 percent lower than expected.
“This is the government working for the people, creating jobs today and laying the foundation for a bright economic future,” LaHood said.
Obama secured passage of ARRA and signed it into law on Feb. 17, less than one month after taking office. Less than two weeks later, on March 3, the president, Biden and LaHood released the first funding to the states and localities for highways, roads and bridge projects; that release of funds came eight days earlier than required by law.
ARRA provides a total of $48.1 billion for transportation infrastructure projects to be administered by USDOT; of that, $27.5 billion is for highways and bridges, $8.4 billion is for transit, $8 billion is for high-speed rail, $1.3 billion is for Amtrak, $1.5 billion is for discretionary infrastructure grants, $1.3 billion is for airports and Federal Aviation Administration facilities and equipment, and $100 million is for shipyards.
In early February, prior to the passage of ARRA, LaHood established within USDOT the TIGER (Transportation Investments Generating Economic Recovery) team to ensure that economic recovery dollars for transportation infrastructure projects is made available rapidly and that project spending is monitored and transparent. On March 3, Obama unveiled a TIGER logo, as well as an ARRA logo, that will be placed on construction signs across the country to mark projects being built and jobs created with Recovery Act funds.