Yesterday the Department of Transportation officially announced nearly $600 million in competitively awarded TIGER II grants. The 75 innovative projects this money makes possible will put people to work today building a 21st century foundation for tomorrow's economic growth.
To mark this important day, I traveled from Atlanta, Georgia, to the bridge between Portsmouth, New Hampshire, and Kittery, Maine, visiting two of the projects these grants support.
The 75 winning projects are indispensable--that's why DOT selected them from more than 1,000 applications requesting $19 billion. Some of our awards will help establish urban circulator buses, bicycle lanes, and multimodal transportation stations. Others fund more traditional projects that don’t fit neatly into old formulas--bridge construction and freight movement.
But, each of these TIGER II grant rewards true excellence, effective partnerships, and good stewardship of taxpayer dollars.
That was exactly the case in Atlanta, where DOT will provide $47.6 million for a modern streetcar system. Atlanta dreamed big and imagined a streetcar from the King Center to Centennial Olympic Park. Behind the vision and leadership of US Representative John Lewis and Mayor Kasim Reed, people have come together around a common agenda, streamlined their priorities, and begun working to make those priorities a reality.
I'm looking forward to riding that streetcar when it's complete, but in the meantime, I'm pleased that the project is expected to create more than 900 construction jobs.
In Portsmouth, we announced a $20 million grant to replace a deteriorating bridge between New Hampshire and Maine. I chose to go to the Piscatasqua River because of the extraordinary bipartisan effort it took to make the Memorial Bridge project happen.
This much-needed project would not have moved forward without the support of Republican Senators Olympia Snowe and Susan Collins of Maine, Democratic Senator Jeanne Shaheen of New Hampshire, Governor John Lynch and Rep. Carol Shea-Porter of New Hampshire, and Maine's Governor John Baldacci and Rep. Chellie Pingree. Looking up at the condition of the existing bridge--perhaps one of the worst I've seen in America--I know they were right to come together behind this worthy project.
As I've said before, there are no Democratic or Republican roads or bridges in this country. There are only American roads.
And one of those roads is US Route 1, which runs from Maine all the way down to Key West. Along the way, it crosses the Piscataqua River between Kittery, ME, and Portsmouth, NH, over Memorial Bridge, which honors World War I veterans. A new span will make a much more fitting tribute to those soldiers and seamen; it will also make a much safer bridge between these two states.
President Obama knows that Maine and New Hampshire are not the only states that need to rehabilitate or replace their transportation infrastructure. The surplus of applications for our TIGER II grants is a testament to that fact. And so is the success of our Recovery Act projects and the economic shot in the arm they provided.
That's why the President recently proposed a $50 billion investment in more infrastructure projects--projects that will create even more jobs while restoring the foundation that keeps America's economy moving.
In America’s first century, we carved the Erie Canal and connected the coasts with the transcontinental railroad. In our second century, we built interstate highways and the roads and bridges that are still lifelines of our economy. Each succeeding American generation has demonstrated the foresight and courage to invest in the most important infrastructure projects of their time.
We can do no less. TIGER II is a critical step forward, but our work is far from finished.
Ray LaHood is the Secretary of Transportation