South Carolina Secretary of Transportation Buck Limehouse has returned from the nation’s capital and his meeting with White House Chief of Staff Rahm Emmanuel concerning what the stimulus plan offers South Carolina. The $787 billion recovery plan passed by congress will move to president Barack Obama’s desk to sign today. House Majority Whip Jim Clyburn says South Carolina will receive $463 million of that to build and repair roads and bridges.
Limehouse says his agency has been trying to conserve its resources, and build up its highway trust fund. “We were going to be putting a lot of work out, wether or not the stimulus pass. This is just going to give us more opportunity to fix our very large state highway system make it safer for our citizens when they go to work, and for tourists when they come down here to recreate, so we think it’s a postivie thing for both DOT and the state of South Carolina.”
All 50 state transportation agency heads have been invited to meet with USDOT Secretary Ray Lahood and members of the White House staff. Limehouse says his agency has a lot of responsibility, and using the incoming cash appropriately is extremely important. “We need to do good projects and not boondoggles, because I think any bad press out of this program will kill any chance to extend it. And I do feel that even though it’s only three or four percent of the total bill, that the infrastructure programs are generally regarded as good for the economy. I think the American people support that.” Limehouse says many American citizens don’t support certain parts of the stimulus package, but just about everyone supports road and bridge, and infrastructure improvement. The money that the Palmetto State DOT is receiving is equivalent to about one year’s federal funding for the highway program.
Limehouse says the SCDOT has looked at more than 500 projects which it is considering. “And one of our rules is that we’re gonna assure that work is going to be done in each and every county of this state. We’ve been coordinating with the Corps of Engineers and even with out border states. We submitted one project in conjunction with Georgia to build a bridge.” The national plan included $30 billion or highways and $12 billion for transit.
Limehouse says his department is focused on trying to fix the road system that it now has. But he says even the $463 million coming out of the stimulus bill isn’t enough. “No, but even the journey of a thousand miles begins with a single step. We can’t do all of this at one time anyway. And it’ll be a short period of time befor ethe contracts are let, because they’re trying to create jobs. And so we want to make sure we get good value from the projects we let, so we want good prices from our contractors.”
Limehouse says the projects will put lots of people to work. Some local leaders, like those in Greenville, have been distressed that DOT was in charge of distributing the stimulus funds. Limehouse says there doesn’t need to be controversy over the funding, but efficiency to increase employment and get the work done. He says even if the funding went to the local communities, instead of being funneled through his department, that everyone still has to work together with DOT to keep up construction standards, and for maintenance.
The recovery package being signed today also includes more than $500 million for school districts, $860 million in Medicaid payments, $551 million in unemployment benefits, and $389 million for food stamps.