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'Shovels hit the ground' on stimulus project, Obama says

  • Story Highlights
  • New highway resurfacing project in Maryland is expected to support 60 jobs
  • President Obama: Highway spending will create or save 150,000 jobs by end of 2010
  • Another 200 construction projects to be launched in next few weeks
  • Investing in roads will save lives, Obama says
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(CNN) -- President Obama said Tuesday that the country already is "seeing shovels hit the ground" on the first infrastructure repair project funded through the Transportation Department's share of the $787 billion stimulus bill.

President Obama says investing in the country's roads will help save lives.

Workers mark where repairs are needed on Maryland Route 650.

Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood said, "The work begins today in Montgomery County, Maryland, where a work crew is starting on a project to resurface Maryland State Highway 650 -- a very busy road that has not been fully repaired in 17 years."

The resurfacing contract is going to a Pennsylvania-based family-owned company, American Infrastructure, LaHood said.

He said the project will support 60 jobs. "And that's how we're going to get the country back on its feet," LaHood added.

Mark Compton, director of government affairs for American Infrastructure, said his company received $2.1 million in federal funds, by way of the Maryland State Highway Administration.

The money will be used to repave and add safety features to a stretch of the highway.

Compton said the cash infusion is the "catalyst" to create 60 jobs, including bringing back some laid-off employees.

He said he hopes the workers can be retained beyond this six-month project. "We'll continue to bid, so the goal is to get more projects to keep those guys working, so they can roll off that project onto another," Compton said. CNNMoney: Stimulus funds hit the street

Obama and LaHood on Tuesday announced the release of $27 billion in funds from the stimulus package "to help states create a 21st-century infrastructure."

The president said it is part of the "largest new investment in America's infrastructure since President Eisenhower built the Interstate Highway System."

Obama said another 200 construction projects would be launched over the next few weeks, "fueling growth in an industry that's been hard hit by our economic crisis."

Two weeks ago, Obama signed into law his stimulus plan, known as the American Reinvestment and Recovery Act.

The president has said the plan will create or save up to 3.5 million jobs over the next two years. Four-hundred thousand of those will be infrastructure jobs that include rebuilding roads, bridges and schools.

LaHood has asked the nation's governors to certify projects and provide assurances that funds from the act will be spent for appropriate infrastructure projects.

Obama said transportation projects would be stamped with a special emblem so people can see where their tax dollars are going.

Obama said the investments in highways would create or save 150,000 jobs by the end of 2010. The number of jobs being created or saved in one year is more than the number of jobs the Big Three automakers have lost in manufacturing over the past three years, Obama said.

By investing in roads "that should have been rebuilt long ago," Obama said, "we can save some 14,000 men and women who lose their lives each year due to bad roads and driving conditions."

"Poor roads are a public hazard, and we have a responsibility to fix them," he said. Video Watch Obama explain how the roads will save lives »

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Obama also announced Tuesday that the Treasury Department and Federal Reserve were launching the Consumer and Business Lending Initiative.

When fully implemented, Obama said, the initiative "will generate up to a trillion dollars in new lending for the American people, and this will help unlock our frozen credit markets, which is absolutely essential for economic recovery."

CNNMoney's Aaron Smith contributed to this report.

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