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This is Governor John Baldacci.

Last weekend I traveled to Washington for the National Governor’s Association winter meeting.

The meetings are always a good opportunity to exchange ideas and for Governors to work towards common goals.

But this year’s meeting took on a new importance.

Our country is facing an unprecedented economic crisis that is hurting many families in Maine and around the country.

In meetings with the President and his administration, I learned firsthand many of the details of a comprehensive recovery plan that will revive our economy and, as the president said, build a new foundation for lasting prosperity.

The Governors heard the message loud and clear.

The President and members of Congress have placed responsibility on the nation’s governors to ensure that the Recovery Act funds are used wisely, immediately, and in a transparent fashion.

My Administration has been working for many weeks now in conjunction with the President and Congress and our State Legislature to ensure that we are prepared for the new investments that will come to Maine.

Just a couple of weeks ago, President Obama signed into law the bill that will bring new resources to Maine and the rest of the country – The American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009.

The recovery plan will create or save 3.5 million jobs, putting our people back to work and rebuilding our critical infrastructure.

The recovery plan will make our roads stronger, bridges safer, water cleaner, and our energy more renewable. It will help grow our economy.

On Thursday Maine took a major step toward fulfilling the Recovery Act’s promise of new jobs and new investments in infrastructure.

The Maine Department of Transportation has worked for nearly two months preparing a possible recovery plan that invests in our State’s highways and bridges.

They set the stage for quick action, even as we were unsure of how much or when the resources would be flowing to Maine.

The first project on the DOT list is the I-295 Northbound project. It will essentially mirror the work that was done between West Gardiner and Topsham on the I-295 Southbound last year.

We announced the apparent low bidder of this thirty-one and a half million dollar project on Thursday afternoon. Pike Industries, a proven company with a solid track record completing major projects in Maine, is that bidder.

With resources made available by the Recovery Act, Maine will rehabilitate almost 24 miles of Interstate Highway, putting about 800 Maine people back to work, and making necessary investments in our infrastructure.

That Northbound project is the state’s top highway priority. It is the largest single project proposed by MaineDOT for recovery funds.

It was built in the 1970s, and it is falling apart.

295 is crucial to Maine’s economy.

It is a major thorough-fare for moving goods into and out of our state. It is the backbone of our highway interstate system. It connects population centers, and provides a major route for our important tourism industry.

It is estimated that close to 60 – 70 percent of Maine’s GDP of $48 billion travels on that road back and forth.

But there will also be important and immediate benefits to this project.

We know that a good job is the best social service program.

And by investing in transportation projects, we invest in our people, in our business, and we connect them to markets where I know they can compete with anyone.

It’s important to recognize that this project is only part of $138 million dollars worth of projects provided by the recovery funds.

Taken together with the State’s annual work program that will be totaling $279 million, the combined impact of this work – recovery and non-recovery projects – will estimate about 11,000 jobs, given a formula by the Federal Highway Administration.

11,000 jobs this spring, summer and fall gives us a great foundation to build from.

And as the President said Tuesday night, this investment will help to build that foundation of lasting prosperity.

But the recognition can’t stop with the President.

The economic recovery package is already starting to put people back to work here in Maine and around the country.

It wouldn’t have been possible without the hard work and courage of Maine’s congressional delegation.

In the House of Representatives, Congresswoman Chellie Pingree and Congressman Mike Michaud laid the foundation for a strong package of investments in critical areas like health care, transportation, education and new energy technology.

And in the Senate, Senator Collins and Senator Snowe showed tremendous courage, putting the interests of the State and the country ahead of ideology and partisan pressure.

They delivered for Maine when many of their colleagues could not or would not.

Because of our President and our congressional delegation, there is hope on the horizon and a great sense of optimism that is beginning to flow through the country.

The Recovery Act will not fix all of the economic problems in America immediately, but it is a bold first step that will produce results both immediately and well into the future.

Thank you for listening, and have a great weekend.

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