Bush Signs Highway Bill, Prevents Layoffs

Mon March 01, 2004 - National Edition

WASHINGTON (AP) President Bush yesterday signed legislation extending authorization of the federal highway program for two months, a move that prevents nearly 5,000 Transportation Department workers from being laid off.

The House Surface Transportation Extension Act of 2004 specifically extends highway, highway safety, motor carrier safety, transit and other programs funded out of the Highway Trust Fund.

The extensions are needed as Congress works out a final highway bill. An earlier extension expired on yesterday.

House and Senate leaders now trying to work out differences on a major new highway bill that would outline spending over the next six years. The Senate recently approved a $318 billion bill, which the White House has threatened to veto, saying it shouldn’t go above the president’s $256 billion proposal.

Transportation Secretary Norman Mineta said that without the temporary extension, the department would have had to furlough 5,000 workers who do safety inspections of trucks crossing U.S. borders, and would halt the flow of federal money to hundreds of highway construction projects under way across America.