President Barack Obama said Monday the $787 billion economic stimulus plan is beginning to take hold and that work is coming in "ahead of schedule and under budget."
Standing alongside Vice President Joe Biden and Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood at the agency, Obama highlighted the administration's 2,000th project funded through the $48.1 billion part of the program allocated specifically to transportation infrastructure projects.
That $68 million project is in Michigan and includes the widening of the Westnedge Avenue interchange from four lanes to six and rebuild an overpass along Interstate 94 just south of Kalamazoo in southwest Michigan.
Obama said the project will start this summer, creating an estimated 900 jobs right away and go into 2011, creating nearly twice that many jobs altogether before it's finished.
He also said Vice President Joe Biden will attend the project's groundbreaking in June. Biden is overseeing the administration's recovery effort.
"What is most remarkable about this effort ... isn't just the size of our investment or the number of projects we're investing in. It's how quickly, efficiently and responsibly those investments have been made," Obama said. "Because these projects are getting approved more quickly than we thought ... and because these projects are costing less than we thought, we can utter a sentence rarely heard in recent years: This government effort is coming in ahead of schedule and under budget."
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.
Michigan Gov. Jennifer Granholm said Monday that her state so far will save $700 million on projects because bids are coming in lower than expected.
"That means more roads paved, and that's good for us," she told reporters.
Obama said the federal recovery package is "beginning to work," crediting with spurring a rehiring of workers at clean energy companies, police departments canceling planned layoffs and clinics planning to expand health care.
Some 120 million families are taking home larger pay checks because of tax cuts in the measure, Obama said, while plans are under way to rebuild crumbling roads and bridges, modernize airports and shipyards, develop high-speed rail networks and restore aging public transit systems.
Obama won quick passage of his $787 billion economic stimulus plan shortly after taking office, using the argument that the plan would put Americans back to work on public projects. Since then, its popularity has waned; thus, administration officials have been highlighting quick progress and efficiency.