Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood made his point early and often:

If Congress passed a transportation bill, it would create jobs.

It's a message he's been repeating at speeches and appearances across the nation since the Obama administration released a $550 billion, six-year plan to pay for various transportation-related infrastructure projects on Labor Day last year.

"A transportation bill will become a jobs bill," LaHood said during a speech at the Greater Philadelphia Chamber of Commerce's annual "State of the Region" program at the Chase Center in Wilmington Tuesday morning.

LaHood said that during his 14 years in Congress, two transportation bills were passed. The current Congress is overdue in passing another. "There's a big, bold plan out there. If you don't like it, pass something else," he said.

Acknowledging the pushback from Congressional Republicans to cut federal spending and debt, LaHood said the nation still must invest in priorities, such as infrastructure, even as it pays down debt.

"We need to fund our transportation priorities so Americans can go back to work," he said to applause from the businesspeople in the audience.