WASHINGTON — Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood announced Friday that $470 million in unspent earmark money would be made available to states for transportation projects, but it’s unclear how many jobs the funds would create in an economy suffering from stubbornly high unemployment.
LaHood said states have until Oct. 1 to identify how they intend to use the money and must obligate the funds by the end of the year or lose them. The funds were originally requested by lawmakers for projects in their states but went unspent.
“There is a pent-up demand in America to fix infrastructure,” LaHood said in a conference call with reporters. “We want the states to spend the money as quickly as they can.”
The new funds, announced some two months before the presidential election, are a fraction of the nearly $48 billion that the department has awarded for road and bridge projects since 2009 under the administration’s economic stimulus program. Three years into the program, $36 billion in stimulus funds have been paid out, according to the Recovery.gov website.
In October, President Barack Obama launched a “We Can’t Wait” initiative to bypass Congress and get more funds directly to states for job creation.