The House of Representatives gave final approval to funding for the Highway Trust Fund September 11 and sent the bill to President Bush, who is expected to sign it.
By a vote of 376 to 29, the House measure would immediately appropriate $8.017 billion of general revenue to the Highway Trust Fund, according to a report by the American Association of State Highway and Transportation Officials.
"Now that the House and Senate have approved legislation to restore the Highway Trust Fund, we urge the President to act quickly and sign the bill into law," said John Horsley, executive director of the American Association of State Highway & Transportation Officials. "States depend on federal funds to keep the country moving safely and we trust that the bipartisan cooperation that brought about today's rescue will continue next year as Congress passes a new authorization bill that will keep the Highway Trust Fund solvent for future generations."
The House originally passed the bill, HR 6532, on July 23. Senators approved it by voice vote September 10, amending the legislation to make it effective upon the President's signature rather than on Sept. 30. The House today concurred with the Senate amendment and sent the bill to the White House.
Following Bush's expected approval of the bill, states will be able to restart hundreds of millions of dollars of construction projects that were put on hold this week as a result of the September 5 announcement by U.S. Transportation Secretary Mary Peters that federal-aid payments would be rationed because of a shortage of federal funds. Peters said that distribution of federal highway funds to the states would be weekly, rather than twice daily. She also indicated that after the first weekly payments issued today, states would likely receive a reduced percentage of their claims in future weeks if Congress did not put more money in the trust fund.
Reversing the administration's previous opposition, Peters urged Congress to appropriate more money to resolve the crisis by the end of this week. She said the trust fund faces a zero balance sooner than originally expected because Americans have sharply reduced driving and gas purchases this year because of high prices at the pump. That in turn has led to a drop in gas-tax collections because the fee is assessed per gallon purchased.