New available transportation funds could be used for Brent Spence Bridge, streetcar

WASHINGTON (AP) -- The Obama administration will make nearly half a billion dollars in unspent highway funds available to states that promise to use the money to create jobs and improve transportation.

Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood announced Friday that more than $470 million will be made immediately available for projects such as repairing crumbling roads and bridges, a White House official said.

More than $12 million is available for Ohio, more than $17 million for Kentucky, and around $5 million for Indiana. The Department of Transportation must approve the projects that these funds will be spent on. Those projects must be approved by Oct. 1 and states must commit to them by Dec. 31. Projects affected could be the Brent Spence Bridge or streetcar in Ohio.

The move is part of President Barack Obama's election-year effort to sidestep Congress with programs which Obama says will create jobs. Obama has adopted the slogan "We Can't Wait" to contrast his efforts with congressional Republicans, who have balked at many of his plans.

The money initially was allocated to the Transportation Department for special projects known as earmarks from 2003 to 2006. The Republican-controlled House has since banned earmarks, which are provisions tucked into bills which direct taxpayer dollars to lawmakers' pet projects.

Obama has vowed to veto any bill that includes earmarks and has supported efforts by lawmakers in both parties to permanently ban the practice.

But the White House official said money awarded by previous Congresses should be spent to improve the nation's highways, transit systems and ports. Instead of letting the money sit idle, it should be used to put Americans back to work and repair the nation's crumbling infrastructure, the official said.

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