Biden in Md. to push plan

The Baltimore Sun

LAUREL -Vice President Joe Biden said yesterday that the more than $100 billion in infrastructure spending in the administration's economic stimulus plan would create 400,000 jobs nationwide while improving highways, bridges and mass transit systems with projects such as the renovation of the historic MARC station along the Camden Line here.

Biden came to this Prince George's County city to promote President Barack Obama's more than $800 billion American Recovery and Reinvestment Plan and to ratchet up the pressure on Congress to quickly make it law.

"We can't think small. We can't do nothing, and we can't repeat the mistakes of the past," Biden said.

The vice president was joined by Gov. Martin O'Malley, U.S. Sen. Benjamin L. Cardin and U.S. Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood at a brief news conference on the frigid platform of the red-brick train depot that dates to 1884. All the men are Democrats except LaHood, a Republican.

Biden said a $2.9 million plan to renovate the station is an example of a project that could put people to work quickly once the stimulus bill is signed. "These are projects and critical needs that have been ignored too long," he said

He defended the administration's package against those who have criticized its scale. "I don't know any serious economist - left, right or center - who doesn't think we need a package of some $800 billion or $900 billion," he said. "The problem is gargantuan."

While the vice president promoted the overall package, yesterday's event focused mostly on the infrastructure funding it would deliver to the 50 states and the District of Columbia.

White House officials traveling with the vice president circulated an estimate that Maryland would receive $400 million to improve highways, $100 million for transit projects such as the Laurel renovation and $150 million for water and sewer projects. They also said the package could provide enough money to modernize at least 138 schools in the state.

Biden said the plan could preserve about 70,000 jobs in Maryland that would otherwise be lost.

LaHood, a former congressman from Illinois, said he would bring together the transportation secretaries from all 50 states in Washington next week to discuss spending priorities. "We are laying the foundation for future economic growth," LaHood said.

Maryland's transportation secretary, John D. Porcari, said his department would focus any stimulus dollars it receives on "system preservation" projects that could be rolled out quickly.

"You will not see any bridges to nowhere from us," Porcari said. "We will have resurfacing and bridge work in every corner of the state."

He said that the Laurel station project is a "perfect example" of what the stimulus bill could help the state accomplish. He pointed to the pitted and deeply grooved wooden platform, which he said has been known to trip up women wearing high heels. As part of the project, the old platform would be torn out and replaced with a concrete-and-steel base and new wooden surface.

Porcari said the project has received all of its required approvals and that a contractor had been chosen before state revenue shortfalls put the work on hold.

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