Congress asks states about infrastructure spending

WASHINGTON Fri Feb 27, 2009 3:26pm EST

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WASHINGTON (Reuters) - The U.S. Congress sent more than 450 letters to state and local agencies on Friday requesting they detail how they will use funds from the recently enacted stimulus plan in yet another attempt to keep an eye on spending.

U.S. governors have 45 days to certify how infrastructure funds they deploy will create jobs, how their states will maintain current spending, that they have given the projects under the funds full review, and the purpose and rationale of the projects.

The letters, which were also sent to state and local transportation departments, request more information than was required by the economic recovery law President Barack Obama signed last week.

James Oberstar, the Minnesota Democrat who chairs the House of Representatives Infrastructure Committee, said in a statement the demand for many details "should come as no surprise."

In April, the committee will hold an oversight hearing on how the $40 billion for highway, transit and water infrastructure programs in the bill have been spent.

Obama created the website www.recovery.gov as part of a pledge to keep citizens apprised of how the stimulus dollars are spent and more than a dozen states have followed suit.

The stimulus plan has included strict "use it or lose it" provisions in the hopes that the states will pump dollars quickly into infrastructure projects. They must commit half of their bridge and highway funds to projects within 120 days or the money will be taken back and allocated to another state.

(Reporting by Lisa Lambert, additional reporting by Karen Pierog in Chicago; Editing by Kenneth Barry)

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