COLUMBUS, Ohio – While Ohio senior senator George V. Voinovich wasn’t present at the bill signing by President Barack Obama in the White House Rose Garden last Thursday, his long-held support for spending on transportation, as he demonstrated by voting for the HIRE act which also included extending the Highway Trust Fund through the end of the year, was there even though he wasn’t.
“The funding in this bill sends the message to struggling states like Ohio that they can move forward with shovel-ready transportation projects – projects that will put people back to work quickly contribute to economic growth,” Sen. Voinovich said in prepared remarks the day following the successful vote on the Hiring Incentives to Restore Employment Act. He added, “The state of Ohio could lose $300 million in vital job-creation funds without passage of this bill. With the unemployment rate for construction workers two times higher than the U.S. unemployment rate, that funding loss is simply not an option.”
As for his comments on the transportation infrastructure portion of the bill designed to encourage businesses to hire and help put Americans back to work, Obama “this jobs bill will maintain crucial investments in our roads and our bridges as we head into the spring and summer months, when construction jobs are picking up.”
Voinovich, a two-term Republican senator retiring at the end of the year, called the bill a “three-fer” because it he said it’s good for the environment, good for the nation’s competitive position in the global marketplace and good for job creation.
The former mayor of Cleveland and two term governor of Ohio said, “Because of the state of our economy today, the return on infrastructure investment is better than it has been in recent years – project bids are coming in extremely low so we can get the best bang for our buck right now.”
Long known for his position on deficits and balanced budgets, Voinovich was nevertheless among the 68 senators who voted in the affirmative for the $18 billion bill (H.R. 2847), which included another $20 billion for highway and transit programs.
The former Ohio governor said the the transportation construction industry is suffering from its worst construction cycle since World War II, and is currently experiencing an 18.7 percent unemployment rate, the highest of any industry in America.
He noted that Ohio alone lost 35,200 construction jobs in 2009, a 17 percent decrease, and that studies show that the United States should be investing $225 billion annually in highways, transit and rail over the next 20 years, but is currently investing only 40 percent of that amount.
In early March of 2009, shortly after the $787 billion stimulus funding bill was signed into law, Obama, Vice president Joe Biden and Ray LaHood, director of transportation, released $26.6 billion to states and local transportation authorities to repair and build highways, roads and bridges.
The trio said the funds will create or save 150,000 jobs by the end of next year, most of them in the private sector. Obama said, “The jobs that we’re creating are good jobs that pay more than average; jobs grinding asphalt and paving roads, filling potholes, making street signs, repairing stop lights, replacing guard rails.”
Ohio received $774 million in transportation related stimulus funds. Based on federal calculations for transportation investment, Ohio Gov. Ted Strickland said nearly 150 projects in nearly every county in the state would create or retain an estimated 21,257 jobs.
As part of the state’s $774 million stimulus investment, ODOT will invest $603.5 million into 113 separate roadway projects, according to a governor’s statement. Of those 113 projects, $242.9 million is dedicated to 30 bridge projects, and $360.6 million to 83 pavement projects.
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