2005 transportation bill

Bill in Brief

A 6-year highway and transportation bill got its final stamp of approval from Congress in July 2005 - and the president's signature in August 2005.

The bill pays for mass transit projects (about 18% of the bill), transportation safety (5%) and highway programs (the rest), with a hefty handful of related "pet projects" tossed into the mix.

The House and Senate wrangled over competing versions of the bill which differed on their overall price tags - $284 billion in the House and $295 billion in the Senate - but landed on a compromise price of $286.4 billion. The two chambers also agreed to change the minimum amount states had to get back from their gas taxes from 90.5% to 92% (starting in '08).

Pork

While the transportation debate rarely gets heated within the walls of Congress, the bill has a chorus of critics from the outside. CitizenJoe, as you know, doesn't usually take sides; but it's hard to find anyone to argue in favor of Congress' habit of layering "pork" - non-urgent pet projects - onto the transportation bill whenever it comes up for reauthorization. Conservatives and liberals alike grumble at the billions that get tossed into the bill for, say, tourist trolleys or for a national Packard museum.

The budget watchers say the 2005 transportation bill had anywhere between 3,800 (NYT) and 6,376 (TCS) pet projects added on, worth up to $24 billion (TCS).

Follow up: one of the most highly publicized - and ridiculed - pieces of pork, a $223 million bridge "to nowhere" in Alaska, was later cut when Congress passed its yearly transportation spending bill in November. That money was instead freed up for Alaska to use on other transportation projects.

To catch a small dose of the universal grumbling, see:

Updated November, 2005.

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