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Stimulus tallies 2,000 transportation projects

Philip Elliott

President Barack Obama says two rare phrases describe how his administration is spending billions in stimulus money on roads: "ahead of schedule" and "under budget."

Obama, Vice President Joe Biden and Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood planned Monday to highlight the administration's 2,000th project funded through the $48.1 billion allocated for transportation infrastructure in the stimulus package. Administration aides note the six-weeks-old law is already producing jobs nationwide, including the day's highlighted project in hard-hit Kalamazoo County, Mich.

That $68 million project planned to widen an interchange from four lanes to six along Interstate 94 in Portage, Mich.

"The Recovery Act is being implemented with speed, transparency and accountability," Vice President Joe Biden said in remarks prepared for delivery during a visit to the department. "Don't take my word for it — just look at what's happening today. We have the 2,000th transportation project now under way — that's going to help create jobs, make it easier for folks to get to the jobs they have and improve our nation's infrastructure all at the same time."

Obama won quick passage of his $787 billion economic stimulus plan shortly after taking office using the argument that the plan would put Americans to work on public projects. Since then, its popularity has waned; thus, administration officials have been highlighting quick progress and efficiency.

Transportation department officials say that because so many contractors want a share of stimulus money, competition is driving down costs by about 15 percent to 20 percent. For instance, officials said Colorado's first five projects were 12 percent lower than anticipated and Oregon's are 30 percent lower.

"Just 41 days ago we announced funding for the first transportation project under (the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act) and today we're approving the 2,000th project," Obama said in remarks prepared for delivery. "I am proud to utter the two rarest phrases in the English language — projects are being approved ahead of schedule, and they are coming in under budget."

The president and vice president planned to visit the department late morning.

The Associated Press