LaHood Says $48B Stimulus for DOT Wasn't Enough; 'Should Have Been $480B'

By Susan Jones | December 2, 2013 | 8:27 AM EST

Former Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood (AP Photo)

( - As investigators probe speed as one possible cause of Sunday's train derailment in the Bronx, the deadly accident already is raising calls for more taxpayer spending on transportation projects.

"America needs to invest in its infrastructure. America needs to get back to being number one," former Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood told MSNBC's "Morning Joe" on Monday.

LaHood said the Transportation Department received $48 billion in stimulus money, but he said it wasn't enough -- it "should have been $480 billion." He even hinted that the $48 billion wasn't spent wisely:

"Of the $800 billion in the economic recovery plan, we got $48 billion. We spent $48 billion in two years, we put 65,000 people to work on 15,000 projects --

"The shovel-ready thing was questionable," MSNBC's Brian Shactman interrupted, "because I saw parts of the Northeast, just a lot of repaved roads, not new projects, not transformational projects. You got people to work, but it didn't change any of the elemental stuff that we need fixed."

"Lookit, Brian, I don't disagree with that," LaHood responded. "We followed the law. The law said spend the money in two years, get the money out the door, put people to work. And so we used our good partnership with governors and others, um, to fix up some roads and fix up some bridges, and, you know, really do what we could -- and people were put to work over that two-year period. Should it have been more money? Of course. Rather than $48 billion it should have been $480 billion, that's what it -- and you know, every member of Congress said that later on when they figured out that it wasn't enough money.

"But if you look at states that have made the commitment and passed referendums -- the people are way ahead of the politicians on this. They know that their roads are crumbling, they know their bridges are unsafe, they know their transit systems need new infrastructure, whether it's track or new cars -- and in many states they passed referendums increasing the sales tax and used the money to fix up infrastructure. That's the message that has to be delivered to Washington, D.C."

LaHood said people need to step up "and say, we've got to make the investments, and spend the money correctly, put friends and neighbors to work, and let's make  America number one in infrastructure again."

He also said politicians are "afraid" of making infrastructure investments.

"Even in very bad times, we were building the Golden Gate Bridge, the Hoover Dam, the interstate system, our freight rail system, and we just have not made the investments. It's going to be up to Congress, it's going to be up to the administration, it's going to be up to the people to decide that they are sick and tired of driving on crumbling roads, driving on bad bridges -- dangerous bridges -- and riding on 50-year-old transit systems that are in very bad need of repair, for tracks, for new cars, and for new infrastructure. "

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