Yesterday, Vice President Biden and I went to Clermont, Florida, to mark a historic milestone: In advance of the ambitious deadline set by Congress, all 50 states have obligated 100% of their Recovery Act highway funds.
Last March, I blogged about President Obama and Vice President Biden paying a historic joint visit to DOT headquarters to announce the first transportation funding from the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act.
Well, only 12 months and more than 12,000 obligated projects later, two things are clear: 33,000 miles of American roadway have been improved, and the Recovery Act has saved or created 2 million jobs for American workers.
During our visit yesterday, I heard Noranne Downs, secretary of Florida DOT’s
District Five, tell the Orlando Sentinel that stimulus money is vital to her area. “It’s been a big deal. Our funds are cut like anybody else’s. But road projects are good
economic boosters. Transportation projects actually help the economy and
put people to work and at the end you get a real product--you get
capacity on the road."
Now, once stimulus funding is obligated on a project, work can be put out for bid, workers can be hired, and equipment and materials can be purchased. Then those salaries and purchases can begin to do their work, rippling through the community.
I’ve been to Recovery projects across the country, and everywhere I go, I hear the same thing from contractors--this work allows them to keep people working and hire new people. That’s what it’s all about.Just ask Robert McDonald, a heavy equipment operator. He explained to WDBO, "Things had got real slow for us. This job came in. It's a two year project. We can breathe."
But it also goes beyond that. As Vice President Biden told the crowd in Clermont, "Every dollar we invest in these infrastructure projects, highways and bridges, pumps a lot more money into the economy, saves and creates jobs beyond those that are right on that project. It may mean one more waitress stays in business, one more sales clerk has a job. You having a paycheck means you're employing other people."
Clermont's Mayor Hal Turville echoed the Vice President's point on News 13: "A dollar spent here is a dollar that multiplies through the community."
The workers understand that, too. Truck driver Larry Powell explained to WDBO, "We're spreading money around. We go and eat at the restaurants around the area, and buy stuff. It helps everyone."
So it's great to report that 7,800 of those projects are already underway across the U.S.
And it's great to be able to report that the states have done a great job in getting all these projects out the door.
But to create more jobs and continue strengthening the economy, we have more work to do.And--because it's paying dividends in American jobs and renewed American infrastructure--we'll continue doing that work.