Recovery Act: Progress Report on Water Resources Infrastructure Investment

Statement by James Oberstar on the transportation and infrastructure investments of the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act.

WASHINGTON, Nov. 4 -- The House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee issued the following news release:

STATEMENT OF THE HONORABLE JAMES L. OBERSTAR

The transportation and infrastructure investments of the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009 (P.L. 111-5) (Recovery Act), have already played a key role in putting Americans back to work. Federal agencies, states, and their local partners have demonstrated they can deliver transportation and infrastructure projects and create urgently needed employment in the tight timeframes set forth in the Recovery Act.

I am pleased to report that, as of September 30, 2009, 67 percent of highway and transit formula funds have been put to bid - that's $22.8 billion for 9,104 projects. Fifty-three percent of highway and transit formula funds are under contract, totaling $18.2 billion for 7,594 projects. Forty-six percent of these funds are associated with 6,700 projects underway all across the nation, totaling $15.9 billion.

We have also seen progress in putting to work Recovery Act funds for Clean Water State Revolving Fund (SRF) projects. States and their local partners have put out to bid 48 percent of the total available formula funds, have signed contracts worth 30 percent of these funds, and work is underway on projects associated with 23 percent of these funds.

Monitoring the percentage of allocated funds associated with projects out to bid, under contract, and underway helps us measure the Recovery Act's progress. Critics of the Recovery Act focus exclusively on the amount of outlays of Federal funds. This approach does not provide a good sense of Recovery Act progress because these projects primarily operate on a reimbursement mode. For example, states seek reimbursement for Clean Water SRF projects after construction is underway. Federal outlays, therefore, come months after jobs are created and necessary infrastructure projects have begun. Knowing how many funds are associated with projects out to bid, under contract, and underway better captures the extent to which Recovery Act funds have arrived on Main Street.

Against this backdrop, I commend Chairwoman Johnson for scheduling this oversight hearing to hear from federal, state, and local officials who are implementing programs receiving water resources infrastructure funding under the Recovery Act.

To provide additional insight into what progress has been made to date, I would like to share the results of the vigorous oversight that the committee has conducted. Just ten days after the Recovery Act was signed into law, the committee requested transparency and accountability information directly from states, metropolitan planning organizations (MPOs), and public transit agencies, on their use of transportation and environmental infrastructure formula funds. Those recipients have reported regularly to the committee.

The Recovery Act provided $4 billion for Clean Water SRF projects. According to the most recent submissions received by the committee, as of September 30, 2009, a total of 873 Clean Water SRF projects in 43 states have been put out to bid, totaling $1.8 billion. That's 48 percent of the total available formula funds for Clean Water SRF projects.

Of these 873 projects that have been put out to bid, 530 Clean Water SRF projects in 40 states are already under contract. These projects under contract total $1.1 billion.

Work has begun on 394 projects in 36 states, totaling $872 million.

While I am encouraged by these numbers, the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and their State partners must do more to ensure the quick and efficient use of these funds.

The committee also requested that all federal agencies implementing programs that receive Recovery Act funds under the Committee's jurisdiction provide a table of specific Recovery Act projects. As of October 16, 2009, Federal agencies under the committee's jurisdiction have announced 13,313 transportation and non-transportation projects totaling $42.5 billion, representing 66 percent of the total available funds. Funds have been committed for 12,866 projects totaling $36.4 billion, representing 57 percent of the total available funds.

Of the $4.7 billion in funding provided to EPA under the Recovery Act, EPA has committed $4.6 billion for the Clean Water SRF, Superfund cleanup, and Brownfields program. This represents 98 percent of the total available funds.

Of the $4.6 billion in funding provided to the Corps under the Recovery Act, the Corps has committed $2.3 billion for 744 projects. This represents nearly 50 percent of the total available funds.

This transparency and accountability information speaks for itself: federal agencies, states, and their local partners are putting Americans back to work in family-wage, construction jobs all across the nation.

We have also seen bids for infrastructure projects coming in much lower than expected. This bid savings has allowed federal agencies, states, and local communities to stretch Recovery Act funds even further, resulting in more projects, and in turn putting even more Americans to work.

Throughout development of the Recovery Act, I emphasized the importance of transparency and accountability and ensured that the transportation and infrastructure provisions would be subject to the most rigorous transparency and accountability requirements of the Act. I am pleased that the Obama administration adopted many of these ideas, not just for transportation, but for all programs funded under the Act.

I also promised that the committee would vigorously oversee implementation of the Recovery Act. The committee will continue to require periodic direct reporting to the committee by recipients of transportation and infrastructure funds under the Recovery Act as well as federal agencies implementing Recovery Act programs under the committee's jurisdiction, to ensure that the funds are invested quickly, efficiently, and in harmony with the job-creating purposes of the Act. In addition, the committee will continue to hold public hearings to examine the successes and challenges under the Act.

While much work remains, I am pleased with the progress that has been made since enactment of the Recovery Act. I look forward to hearing the testimony of today's witnesses and discussing what is being done to ensure that Recovery Act funds will continue to create good, family-wage jobs as quickly as possible, while at the same time improving our deteriorating infrastructure and laying the foundation for future economic growth.

STATEMENT OF THE HONORABLE EDDIE BERNICE JOHNSON

SUBCOMMITTEE ON WATER RESOURCES AND ENVIRONMENT

HEARING ON "RECOVERY ACT: PROGRESS REPORT ON WATER RESOURCES INFRASTRUCTURE INVESTMENT"

Today's hearing will focus on implementing the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009. More specifically, we will review how water-related infrastructure investments have already succeeded in placing workers back on the job all across the nation. We will also emphasize how federal agencies, states, and their local partners can do more to ensure that these funds are used quickly, efficiently, and in harmony with the job creating purposes of the Recovery Act.

Successful implementation of this legislation is essential to our collective efforts to turn our economy around, and create good, well-paying jobs here in America. Today, we will hear from federal, state, and local officials charged with the implementation of Recovery Act programs that utilize water infrastructure-related funding.

I am particularly pleased that will be hearing today from the newly confirmed Assistant Secretary of the Army for Civil Works, Ms. Jo-Ellen Darcy. Ms. Darcy has a long history of working with this committee, as a staffer on both the Senate Finance Committee and Senate Environment and Public Works Committee. Ms. Darcy was also integral to efforts by the other body to move several Water Resources Development Acts through the process over the years. Ms. Darcy, congratulations on your confirmation and I look forward to continuing to work with you.

I am happy to report today that of the $4 billion provided by the Recovery Act for the Clean Water State Revolving Fund programs, the Environmental Protection Agency has awarded $3.98 billion in capitalization grants to states. This represents nearly 100 percent of the total available funds. These important funds are allocated to individual states to construct, rehabilitate, and modernize our nation's wastewater infrastructure.

Further, I would also like to report that, as of September 30, 2009, a total of 873 Clean Water SRF projects in 43 States have been put out to bid, totaling $1.8 billion. That is 48 percent of the total available funds for Clean Water SRF projects. Of these 873 projects that have been put out to bid, 530 Clean Water SRF projects in 40 states are already under contract. Work has begun on 394 projects in 36 states, totaling $872 million.

Monitoring the amount associated with projects out to bid, under contract, and underway helps us measure the Recovery Act's progress. Unfortunately, critics of the Recovery Act focus exclusively on the amount of outlays of Federal funds. This approach does not provide a good sense of Recovery Act progress because infrastructure projects primarily operate on a reimbursement mode. For instance, states seek reimbursement for wastewater infrastructure projects only after construction is underway. Since federal outlays may come months after jobs are actually created and construction has begun, outlays are a lagging indicator of Recovery Act progress.

While the numbers are promising, I encourage EPA to continue to take a greater role in facilitating further expenditures of Clean Water SRF funds by the individual states. I also would like to hear about the steps EPA and individual states are taking to ensure that all states meet the February 17, 2010 deadline for awarding contracts or proceeding to construction on their Clean Water SRF projects.

EPA has achieved greater success at implementing the Superfund program, a comprehensive initiative to cleanup the nation's hazardous waste sites. Of the $600 million provided for the Superfund program, EPA has provided $573 million to existing contracts for 56 projects in 28 states. That's 96 percent of the total funds for Superfund cleanup.

Finally, of the $100 million provided for the Brownfields program, EPA has awarded grants or provided funds for existing grants or contracts worth $79 million for 176 Brownfields projects in 39 States. This represents 79 percent of the total funds for Brownfields.

The Recovery Act also provided $4.6 billion to the Corps of Engineers. As of September 30, 2009, the Corps has begun work on 731 Recovery Act projects all across the country, totaling over $2.2 billion. This represents nearly 50 percent of the total amount of funds allocated to the Corps.

My assumption is that all of the members of this committee want the Recovery Act to succeed. Every member of this committee should want the infrastructure investment made by this Act to improve the economy, to help create and sustain good paying jobs, and to begin the long-forgotten need to invest in our nation's infrastructure. I see hopeful signs in today's testimony, but I remind all our witnesses that more must be done to ensure these funds have their intended effect.For more information please contact: Sarabjit Jagirdar, Email:- htsyndication@hindustantimes.com


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