Jobs, Jobs, Jobs. State Transportation Officials Outline Economic Recovery Success at a Seattle News Conference, July 14.Directors of state departments of transportation from more than a dozen states described at a news conference today the rapid pace of delivering jobs and highway projects to bolster the nation's economic recovery.
Nationwide, 2,000 construction projects are now underway, worth more than $6 billion. A total of 5,600 projects have been identified and approved for bidding, which means that a total of $16.7 billion will be flowing into the economy over the next two years.
"Some critics have used federal ARRA reimbursement figures to reflect what's happening on the frontlines. Let's not confuse cash flow with real projects and jobs that are now underway in every state," said Paula Hammond, Washington State Transportation Secretary.
States award contracts and then pay contractors up-front to begin working. The federal government will then reimburse the states, which can take up to 45 days.
Despite a clamor from some areas for more funding, Hammond and the other state DOT directors told reporters "the facts speak for themselves." For example, all 50 states moved swiftly to obtain federal approval for half of their federal funds within 120 days of the signing of the American Reinvestment and Recovery Act. The U.S. DOT reports that 51 percent of the funds are being spent in economically disadvantaged areas, which represent almost 40 percent of the nation's population. Transportation officials said that with bids coming in 5 to 30 percent lower than projected, more projects can be launched than initially planned.
The ARRA is providing $27 billion for highway and bridge projects to be spent over the next two years. Officials also said the recovery program is a good first step; but more is needed to sustain America's transportation system. Before the passage of the ARRA, states identified 5,000 "ready to go" projects worth $64 billion.
"Highway investment creates more than construction jobs, it keeps our whole economy moving forward," said John Horsley, executive director of the American Association of State Highway and Transportation Officials. "With unemployment in the construction industry at 21 percent, we need to keep our economic recovery goal in sight. We also must move to enact a six year highway and transit authorization bill that sustains this strategic investment in people and in the kind of transportation improvements the economy desperately needs," Horsley said.