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Bush signs $286.4B highway bill

Associated Press
Published August 11, 2005


MONTGOMERY, Ill. - President Bush opened the gates Wednesday for spending a whopping $286.4-billion on roads and bridges, rail and bus facilities, bike paths and recreational trails, saying the projects from coast to coast would spur the economy and save lives.

Critics said the 1,000-page transportation bill was weighed down with pet projects to benefit nearly every member of Congress. The bill's price tag over six years was $30-billion more than Bush had recommended, but he said he was proud to sign it.

Bush signed the measure at a suburban Chicago Caterpillar Inc. plant in the home district of House Speaker Dennis Hastert. The Republican leader oversaw nearly two years of negotiations on Capitol Hill to get a slimmed-down version of the bill that Bush would accept.

Bush spoke to workers outside the plant, surrounded by sparkling new construction machinery. Two cranes held a sign that said "Improving Highway Safety for America" over the portable stage set up with a wooden desk for the signing.

The bill signing was the second ceremony this week that has taken Bush from his Texas ranch, where he is spending about five weeks on a summer break from the White House. On Monday, Bush went to New Mexico to put a new energy policy into law.

Two years in the making, the highway bill contains more than 6,371 special projects, according to Taxpayers for Common Sense. The distribution of the money for these projects "is based far more on political clout than on transportation need," said Keith Ashdown, vice president of policy for the group.

THE HIGHWAY AND TRANSIT LAW

Highlights of the highway and mass transit bill President Bush signed Wednesday:

Totals $286.4-billion over the 2004-2009 period, up from $218-billion in the 1998-2003 highway act.

Includes more than $50-billion for bus, train and other transit programs and $6-billion for transportation safety programs.

Ensures that by 2008 every state will get at least a 92 percent rate of return in federal grants for contributions made, through the federal gasoline tax, to the Highway Trust Fund.

Guarantees that every state will see a minimum increase of 19 percent over its 1998-2003 funding level.

Contains a record number of specific highway, bus and rail projects requested by House and Senate members for their districts and states.

[Last modified August 11, 2005, 00:43:15]


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