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Using Idle Earmarks to Improve Transportation and Put People to Work

President Obama is freeing up $473 million in unspent transportation funds and giving it back to the states so that they can spend it on the infrastructure projects they need most.

Ed. Note: This is cross-posted from The Fast Lane -- the blog of the Department of Transportation. 

At DOT, we know that America’s transportation infrastructure is in need of attention, while construction workers across the country remain eager to get back on the job repairing, replacing, and modernizing our roads, rails, and runways.

Over the last decade, Congress has set aside $473 million in transportation funds that were never spent. These idle earmarks have sat on the shelf as our infrastructure continues to age and fall into disrepair, and hundreds of thousands of construction workers look for work. That ends today.

I’m excited to announce that this Administration is freeing up this unspent money and giving it right back to the states so that they can spend it on the infrastructure projects they need most.

As President Obama said today, "My administration will continue to do everything we can to put Americans back to work.  We’re not going to let politics stand between construction workers and good jobs repairing our roads and bridges." Forty-nine states, plus Washington, D.C., and Puerto Rico, will receive funds, giving them the flexibility to put this money toward infrastructure projects that will make a real difference in their communities.

In these tough economic times, it’s important we get the most out of our federal investments, and it’s about time we put these idle funds to good use.

Today’s announcement is a great example of what President Obama meant when he said, “We can’t wait,” to take action to put people back to work. This stalled money will be used this year--states must identify the projects that will receive the funds by October 1 and obligate it by December 31.

Together with the new transportation bill, MAP-21, this funding will put more people across the country back to work on our roads, bridges, railways, and runways--strengthening our economy as a result.

At a time when one in five construction workers is out of work, these are the jobs we need, and we need them right now.

It’s simple--when we put federal dollars toward our infrastructure, we create jobs today and strengthen our economic competitiveness for the long-term.

Together, let’s put people back to work building a transportation system that’s the envy of the world.