WASHINGTON (CN) - Pressing the case for construction spending as a way to get the economy moving again, President Barack Obama said Monday that projects to rebuild roads and bridges are coming in cheaper and faster than expected. "Projects are consistently coming in under budget" said Obama.
The American Recovery and Reinvestment Act, the massive stimulus bill passed in February, commited $28 billion for building and repairing highways, roads and bridges. Obama said the contracts being awarded under that program are coming in quickly and coming in under budget.
"We now have more recovery dollars to go around," said the President. "And that means we can fund more projects and put more people back to work."
Cheaper contracts were credited to fierce competition between contractors for work.
California, in particular, was the source of bids coming in close to half the projected cost, while a project at BWI Airport, in Maryland, for example, now has a projected cost $8 million less than expected.
With the extra money included, the President expects investment in highway projects will support 150,000 jobs by the end of next year, while the $787 billion recovery act is, in its entirety, expected to generate 3.5 million jobs.
Vice President Joe Biden's analogy drove the point home. "The road to recovery must, quite literally, be repaved," he said.
Job creation has been a central part of the recovery plan. Within the last five months, the United States has witnessed the loss of more than 3 million jobs.
But the construction projects are expected to produce additional benefits. They should reduce congestion, which is estimated to cost the nation nearly $80 billion a year, and improve the safety of roads, which are blamed for 14,000 deaths a year.
"What we're doing here is not just for today. It's going to last well beyond this time," said the Vice President.
Obama compared new construction to the construction of our interstate highways. "We are making the largest new investment in America's infrastructure since President Eisenhower built the Interstate Highway System back in the 1950's."
The President announced the approval of the 2000th project under the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act. The project itself is nothing spectacular, just a plan to widen an interstate in Michigan and to rebuild an overpass, but it marks the speed of the act's implementation.
It's been 41 days since the Recovery Act was passed.
Fast implementation means people are getting back to work sooner, and that the recovery act is working, noted Obama.
He said anyone who wants to see where money is being spent can visit recovery.gov
Before leaving, the President assured the crowd that the workers standing behind him in their hard hats would go straight back to work.