Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood on Friday announced $473 million in infrastructure work would be given the green light around the country, as long as they were considered "shovel-ready" projects that could be started immediately.
LaHood said he believes many of the projects will start right away and that thousands of jobs will be created, although he said estimates could change.
The money was set aside for projects between 2003 and 2008, but was unclaimed and unspent. States will now be able to tap that reserve for eligible projects, he said.
LaHood said the announcement was made Friday because this year's construction season is ongoing. He denied the announcement had anything to do with election-year politics.
President Obama, however, issued a statement saying the news should help ease the 8.3 percent unemployment rate.
"My administration will continue to do everything we can to put Americans back to work," Obama said. "We're not going to let politics stand between construction workers and good jobs repairing our roads and bridges."
The funds were originally designated as earmarks by various members of Congress before 2008 - a practice that has been largely eschewed since then - but were never spent and remained frozen. LaHood said they would now be freed up for use.
States must apply for the funds by Oct. 1.
by RTT Staff Writer
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