Carlisle, Pa. Vice President Joe Biden said Thursday the $787 billion economic stimulus program is creating jobs with infrastructure projects like the replacement of a dilapidated bridge in central Pennsylvania, the first stop of a cross-country “Road to Recovery” tour.
Biden led a delegation from the Obama administration to the groundbreaking for the bridge in Carlisle.
Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood and Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius accompanied Biden to Carlisle. Gov. Ed Rendell and Sen. Arlen Specter, D-Pa., also participated.
The $1.7 million replacement of the bridge over Conodoguinet Creek is being financed exclusively with stimulus money.
The main contractor says the project has allowed it to hire 30 additional workers — a 10 percent expansion of its work force — but Biden said job creation is not the only benefit.
“We’re building a foundation for a new transportation system in America … allowing businesses and communities to be competitive again and making people safer,” Biden said.
Biden’s next stop was Overland Park, Kan., for a highway project groundbreaking.
The tour continues today in Michigan as part of the administration’s effort to keep up support for the stimulus in the face of higher-than-expected unemployment.
Biden’s top economic adviser acknowledged this week that the economic forecasts used to sell the stimulus were overly optimistic.
By now, according to those earlier White House economic models, the nation’s unemployment rate should be on the decline.
Instead, it sits at 9.4 percent, the highest in more than 25 years.
Pennsylvania is slated to get about $1 billion in stimulus money for a variety of infrastructure projects.
The two-lane bridge along state Route 34 provides a critical link between Carlisle and rural Perry County. At the request of local school officials, the state delayed the work until after public schools let out for the summer to avoid transportation problems. The bridge is expected to open by the end of November.
Rendell said the roughly 80-year-old bridge, rated structurally deficient and functionally obsolete by the state, was in “terrible condition” when Biden visited the site in February, before Congress approved the stimulus package.
“We actually looked through holes in the bridge and (saw) the creek below,” the governor said.