White House offers states $470M for roads, bridges

Associated Press Modified: August 17, 2012 at 1:00 pm •  Published: August 17, 2012

WASHINGTON (AP) — The Obama administration is making nearly half a billion dollars in unspent highway funds available to states that promise to use the money to create jobs and improve transportation.

Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood said Friday that more than $470 million will be made immediately available for projects such as repairing crumbling roads and bridges.

The move is part of President Barack Obama's election-year effort to sidestep Congress with programs that Obama says will create jobs. Obama has adopted the slogan "We Can't Wait" to contrast his efforts with congressional Republicans, who have balked at many of his plans.

At a time when one in five construction workers is out of work, "we can't wait any longer," LaHood said. "It's about time we put these idle funds to use."

The money initially was allocated to the Transportation Department for special projects known as earmarks from 2003 to 2006. The Republican-controlled House has since banned earmarks, which are provisions tucked into spending bills for lawmakers' pet projects.

Obama has vowed to veto any bill that includes earmarks and has supported efforts by both parties to permanently ban the practice.

But LaHood said money awarded by previous Congresses should be spent to improve the nation's highways, transit systems and ports. Instead of letting the money sit idle, it should be used to put Americans back to work and repair the nation's crumbling infrastructure, he said.

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