The initiative targets earmarks - legislative provisions that direct funds to be spent on specific projects.
US transportation secretary Ray LaHood is making more than US$470m (£299m) in unspent earmarked money immediately available for projects that will create jobs and help improve transport across the country.
“My administration will continue to do everything we can to put Americans back to work,” said president Barack Obama. “We’re not going to let politics stand between construction workers and good jobs repairing our roads and bridges.”
“We are freeing up these funds so states can get down to the business of moving transportation projects forward and putting our friends and neighbours back to work,” said LaHood.
Obama has vowed to veto any bill that comes to his desk with earmarks and would support legislation to permanently ban earmarks. But US$473m in highway earmarks from appropriations acts between 2003 and 2006 remain unspent years later. State departments of transportation will now have the ability to use their unspent earmarked highway funds, some of which are nearly 10 years old, on any eligible highway, transit, passenger rail, or port project.
States must identify the projects they plan to use the funds for by 1 October and ensure they are allocated by 31 December.
“Particularly in these difficult fiscal times, states will be able to put these dollars to good use,” said federal highway administrator Victor Mendez. “These funds will create jobs in the short term and help bring about what President Obama called ‘an America built to last.’”
Funds not obligated by the December 31 deadline will be proportionally redistributed in the 2013 financial year to states that met the deadline.