WASHINGTON -- House and Senate negotiators have agreed on the broad outlines of sweeping transportation legislation that would radically rewrite federal highway and mass transit programs and pump tens of billions of dollars into the economy.
Even though key issues remain unresolved, yesterday's agreement on a six-year program that would provide $151 billion for roads, bridges, bus fleets and rail systems substantially increases the likelihood that Congress will finish work on the package before its scheduled Thanksgiving recess.
"We're under way," said Sen. Daniel Patrick Moynihan, D-N.Y., the chief author of the Senate bill.
The program would earmark $32 billion for transit projects and $119 billion for highways. The funding agreed on by negotiators -- substantially higher than that authorized in existing law -- would depend on the extension through the 1999 fiscal year of a 2.5-cent surcharge on the federal gasoline tax. The tax is now 14 cents a gallon.
Transportation programs, which have remained largely unchanged since the interstate highway era began 35 years ago, expired Sept. 30.
Negotiators said they doubted the Bush administration would veto the package, although it would spend more than $5 billion on special "demonstration projects."