District of Columbia officials and U.S. Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood say construction of the District’s 11th Street Bridge Project shows how infrastructure investment produces jobs and demonstrates how President Barack Obama’s American Jobs Act could put people back to work.
D.C. Mayor Vincent Gray, D.C. City Councilman Marion Barry, Terry Bellamy, director of D.C.’s Department of Transportation, and LaHood gathered recently at the project along with contractors and workers.
LaHood said the 11th Street Bridge Construction Project was one of the most important projects going on today – “not just in Washington, D.C., but in America.”
“This is a magnificent project, it’s a complicated project. It’s the kind of project that America has been known for decades, whether it’s the bridge over the Hoover Dam, or the Hoover Dam or the Panama Canal,” said LaHood. “So we’re going to be sending a message that the 11th Street Bridge Project has put a lot of people to work here in the D.C. region and we want to do that all over America. Congress needs to pass the American Jobs Act, to put thousands of Americans to work.”
The construction of the 11th Street Bridge, a $300 million endeavor, is expected to ease traffic along the Southeast-Southwest Freeway in the District. The bridge is in Barry’s Ward 8 district.
Gray said about $190 million to build the bridge came from the Department of Transportation and the Federal Highway Administration. He said the project provided several opportunities for the city.
“In addition to giving us the opportunity to improve traffic conditions in the District of Columbia, it’s given us an opportunity to be able to chip away at some of our unemployment rates in the city,” he said.
The comments of other officials, including Barry and Barbara Lang, president and CEO of the D.C. Chamber of Commerce, appeared to agree with the mayor’s sentiments that the project would provide jobs for city residents.
“It is important that we put D.C. residents to work, and particularly the east of River — Wards 7 and 8, where the unemployment rate is so incredibly high, and this is an area where we have a lot of qualified D.C. residents,” said Lang.
According to information provided by the U.S. Department of Transportation, about 380 workers have been employed through the 11th Street Bridge Project, which is scheduled for completing in 2013.
The Department of Transportation also states that LaHood wants Congress immediately to pass an extension of the surface transportation bill, which is set to expire September 30.
“If Congress allows the current surface transportation extension to expire, more than 4,000 federal employees will immediately go without pay,” said a statement from the department. “If Congress delays actions for just 10 days beyond that, nearly $1 billion in highway funding that could be spent on construction projects across the nation would be lost. And if Congress waits even longer, almost 1 million workers could be in danger of losing their jobs over the next year.”