House GOP to unveil transportation funding

Jan. 31, 2012 at 8:16 AM
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WASHINGTON, Jan. 31 (UPI) -- A House transportation bill would give states more authority and encourage private companies to expand the U.S. highway system by building toll roads.

The Republican bill, to be presented Tuesday, also would drastically reduce environmental review time and would require people convicted of drunken driving to use ignition interlock devices for a year, The Washington Post reported.

The House proposal would fund transportation projects near current funding levels of about $260 billion over five years, averaging about $40.6 billion for highways and $10.1 billion for transit, a review indicated, less than the annual $54 billion proposed by the Senate in its two-year bill.

Among the more controversial issues in the House bill is a provision that would raise the maximum truck weight from 80,000 pounds to 97,000 and would allow their length to grow by five feet, the Post said. Safety advocates and the rail industry indicated they're ready to lobby against that provision.

While congressional members have little appetite for imposing tolls on existing interstate highways, the House GOP plan would encourage private investment in projects that build additional lanes on those highways and collect tolls to pay for them.

The proposal for mandatory ignition interlocks, now required in 15 states, is in the Senate bill. An interlock device is a mechanism installed to a vehicle's dashboard. Before the vehicle's motor can be started, the driver must first breathe into the device. If the breath-alcohol concentration result analyzed is greater than the programmed blood alcohol concentration, the device prevents the engine from starting.

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