A day before President Obama convened his “jobs summit,” House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee Chairman James Oberstar (D-Minn.) convened a Capitol Hill news conference to unveil a new report to Congress detailing what could be done for the country’s transportation network.
State transportation departments have identified 9,500 highway, bridge, transit, port, rail and aviation projects worth more than $69 billion that, if funded, can be used to create hundreds of thousands of jobs across the country.
"State departments of transportation have proven that these 'ready-to-go' projects are a great way to put people back work, quickly and efficiently," said John Horsley, executive director of the American Association of State Highway and Transportation Officials (AASHTO). "We're dedicated to getting these projects out to bid fast, but we're also committed to making certain that every taxpayer dollar is spent wisely."
Horsley joined Oberstar and House Subcommittee on Highways and Transit Chairman Peter DeFazio (D-Ore.) at the news conference releasing the report yesterday. AASHTO also presented the report to Sen. Barbara Boxer (D-Calif.), chairman of the Senate Environment and Public Works Committee. The report can be found online at http://downloads.transportation.org/Ready-to-Go.pdf.
“Ready-to-go” means a project that can move through the federal approval process within 120 days of enactment of authorizing legislation, thus enabling the state to proceed toward construction. The report is based on responses from 50 states and the District of Columbia and includes 7,497 in "ready-to-go" highway projects valued at more than $47 billion, and 2,091 "ready-to-go" transit, rail, port, aviation and intermodal projects valued at more than $22 billion.
"We hope Congress will use this survey to make the case that investment in transportation infrastructure projects are guaranteed to create jobs," Horsley said. "A bright spot of the economic recovery act continues to be state transportation projects that are pumping billions of dollars into households and businesses while fixing our broken transportation network."
As of Nov. 20, 2009, 10,600 transportation projects worth more than $30 billion have been approved for funding under the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act. Of the 9,300 highway construction projects authorized to date, more than half—5,458 projects—were either under construction or had already been completed. Three hundred fifty-five projects approved under the airport grants program and worth $1.08 billion are under way or have been completed. Of the $8.4 billion provided for transit, approval to proceed has been received for 690 grants valued at $7.19 billion. Thousands of buses and rail cars have been ordered and are being assembled, and service cutbacks and layoffs have been avoided.
"We need to keep the momentum going. The unemployment rate in the construction trades today exceeds 18%," Horsley said. "There is still a need to invest more in transportation projects if that's what it takes to create jobs and bring unemployment down. What the state DOTs have done over the past eight months to put economic recovery dollars to work shows there is no better way to create jobs and long-lasting benefits in every part of the country."