Md., Va., D.C. have road projects ready for U.S. funding

By Ashley Halsey III
Washington Post Staff Writer
Thursday, December 3, 2009

Transportation officials in Virginia, Maryland and the District have identified $835 million in highway projects that could be underway by spring if the federal government decides to fully fund another job-creation effort.

The 165 projects were part of an appeal for $47 billion in new funds that the American Association of State Highway and Transportation Officials submitted Wednesday on Capitol Hill.

With some Democrats and the AFL-CIO pushing for about $400 billion in additional federal spending to preserve and create jobs, AASHTO surveyed the 50 states and the District to see what projects could be dangled before Congress and the White House with the promise that they would yield new jobs within 120 days.

"These 'ready-to-go' projects are a great way to put people back to work quickly and efficiently," said John Horsley, AASHTO's executive director.

Horsley released the survey at a Capitol Hill news conference with Rep. James L. Oberstar (D-Minn.), chairman of the House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee, and Rep. Peter A. DeFazio (D-Ore.), chairman of the House Transportation subcommittee on Highways and Transit.

Oberstar said stimulus spending has created or sustained jobs for 210,000 highway construction workers.

He said "backdoor communication" with the administration suggested that President Obama's jobs summit Thursday will culminate in a proposal for additional funding for job creation.

Oberstar predicted that it was "very likely" that funding for some of the highway projects would emerge in a jobs bill approved before Congress adjourns this month.

Almost three-quarters of the $787 billion stimulus package that Congress approved in February remains to be spent, but Horsley said more than half of the 9,000 highway construction projects for which it allocated funds -- more than $30 billion -- were underway or completed.

"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," Horsley said.

The requests made by Virginia, Maryland and the District were modest compared with those of 16 states that found more than $1 billion in projects ready to be launched.

Utah led the way, asking for $7.8 billion to fund 114 projects.

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