The federal stimulus spending is responsible for thousands of road construction jobs in Minnesota and around the country, says U.S. Rep. Jim Oberstar, chairman of the U.S. House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee.
Oberstar toured a highway project in Bemidji recently — a $24 million reconstruction of Hwy. 71 that includes a new Hwy. 2 bypass bridge — and told the Bemidji Pioneer that stimulus money has paid for 35,400 lane miles of highway projects nationally, as well as 12,065 bridges.
He told the paper:
“It means 1.3 million construction jobs. All of that is documented with billions of hours of work in each state. On top of that, $609 million in taxes paid by those workers directly on job sites. And $535 million in unemployment compensation checks avoided because they’re getting a paycheck and not being paid for not working.”
Also, stimulus funds bought 12,500 transit buses and rail cars, he said. “New Flyer in St. Cloud put at least 300 people back to work building buses.”
Oberstar also said he was disappointed that the Obama administration pushed back a five-year transportation package into the next congressional term.
“My expectation is, after the election, jitters will calm down and everybody will know what the landscape is, maybe we can do it in December,” Oberstar said. The $450 billion package includes a 10- to 12-cent-a-gallon gas tax hike, phased in over several years.