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Obama touts stimulus success with highway projects

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  • NEW: President Obama: "Projects are consistently coming in under budget"
  • Stimulus dollars have funded 2,000 transportation projects, officials say
  • Administration says savings will stretch $48 billion stimulus budget for infrastructure
  • Officials didn't give overall estimate of money saved from competitive bids
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By Lisa Desjardins
CNN
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WASHINGTON (CNN) -- President Obama declared Monday that his stimulus plan is "starting to work" and that 2,000 transportation projects -- costing much less than expected -- are under way.

President Obama on Monday says the transportation projects will help create or save jobs.

President Obama on Monday says the transportation projects will help create or save jobs.

"Competition for these projects is so fierce, and contractors are doing such a good job cutting costs, the projects are consistently coming in under budget," Obama said Monday.

The president gave a rapid-fire list of savings: a bid for road work in Connecticut is $8.4 million less than the state budgeted; Louisiana has a project coming in $4.7 million less than expected; projects in Colorado are averaging about 30 percent under the state forecast; and some bids in California are nearly half of what the state projected.

The administration said those savings will stretch the agency's $48 billion stimulus budget.

"Our recovery dollars can go further, and we can do more projects," said Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood said. "This is great news."

LaHood hosted the president and vice president at his department's headquarters in Washington for the announcement. Officials did not give an overall estimate of money saved from competitive bids.

The three leaders also claimed a victory in the amount of transportation work approved so far, saying the agency has approved its 2,000th infrastructure project as part of the stimulus.

"Some may have thought it would have taken months to get to this point," Obama said, "but we have approved these projects in just 41 days." Video Watch as Obama says projects are coming in ahead of schedule »

The stimulus bill was signed February 17, but transportation dollars did not begin flowing until later.

The president said the 2,000th transportation project to receive stimulus funds is one to widen and add an overpass to a stretch of Interstate 94 near Portage, Michigan. Vice President Joseph Biden plans to attend the groundbreaking in June.

Obama said the highway projects from the stimulus bill will create or save 150,000 jobs by the end of next year.

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He pointed to the aggressive contractor interest in transportation projects, along with tax cuts going to millions of families from the stimulus plan, and implied it marks a turning point in the economic recovery effort.

"Today, I think it's safe to say that this plan is beginning to work," the president said.

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