"The upshot of these meetings is that we have thousands of worthwhile transportation projects that are ready to go. They've cleared all the hurdles and just need the funding," said Secretary LaHood. "The U.S. Department of Transportation is ready to get the money out the door. We now need the Congress to pass a final bill."
The meeting, which took place in the Eisenhower Executive Office Building, came one day after the U.S. Senate approved the Recovery and Reinvestment Act. The House passed its version on Jan. 28. Both bills are now in the hands of a House-Senate conference committee where the differences in the legislation will be resolved.
North Carolina Secretary of Transportation Eugene Conti, one of more than 40 state transportation heads at the meeting, said, "NCDOT, along with other transportation departments across the nation, has been working to identify projects that would both improve our transportation system and create needed jobs. This funding is key to helping us address the growing economic and infrastructure challenges we are currently facing."
LaHood said the bills passed provide approximately $46 billion for transportation infrastructure, including up to $30 billion for highways, $12 billion for transit, $3.1 billion for passenger rail and $3 billion for airports. In addition, the Senate bill also includes $5.5 billion for a supplemental discretionary grant program. Eligible projects include highways and bridges, public transit, passenger and freight rail transportation and port infrastructure.
LaHood told participants that accountability would be one of his highest priorities and that his Transportation Investment Generating Economic Recovery (TIGER) team would be closely monitoring all aspects of the recovery funding.
The Secretary's TIGER team is composed of officials from across the DOT's operating administrations and offices. The team is co-chaired by Lana Hurdle, deputy assistant secretary for budget and programs, and Joel Szabat, deputy assistant secretary for transportation policy.
"We let them know we can deliver!" said Secretary Allen Biehler of the Pennsylvania Department of Transportation after the meeting. Biehler is also president of the American Association of State Highway and Transportation Officials. "States had estimated in December that states could produce more than 5,000 highway projects valued at $65 billion and creating 1.8 million jobs. The economic recovery bills now in conference provide roughly half of that for highways, but if we can deliver 1 million jobs, that's serious stuff."