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Transportation recovery funds released

In early March, President Barack Obama, joined by Vice President Joe Biden and U.S. Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood, 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. 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 (DOT).

"This investment in highways will create or save 150,000 jobs by the end of next year, most of them in the private sector," Obama said. "The jobs that we’re creating are good jobs that pay more than average; jobs grinding asphalt and paving roads, filling potholes, making street signs, repairing stop lights, replacing guard rails."

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. State highway departments 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. 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. The U.S. DOT will monitor state compliance and track job creation. The projects will be posted online with information on projects accessible at www.recovery.gov.

Obama also unveiled new logos for government-wide projects completed under the ARRA and the Transportation Investments Generating Economic Recovery—TIGER—logo for transportation projects completed under the ARRA.

According to a White House press release, Obama’s visit marks the first by a sitting U.S. president with his vice president to DOT headquarters. President Obama is the third sitting president to visit the department, following Presidents George W. Bush in 2008, and Ronald Reagan in 1981.