U.S. seeks to push back highway/transit bill

WASHINGTON Wed Jun 17, 2009 3:38pm EDT

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WASHINGTON (Reuters) - The Obama administration proposed on Wednesday an immediate 18-month extension of the law funding highway and transit repairs as well as a timetable for replenishing the dwindling trust account that funds those projects.

"If this step is not taken, the trust fund will run out of money as soon as late August and states will be in danger of losing the vital transportation funding they need and expect," Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood said in a statement.

The current highway construction law is set to expire September 30, and the Democratic-controlled Congress is preparing proposals for another multi-year blueprint that will lay out priority projects and funding.

LaHood believes lawmakers will need much more time to craft transportation legislation in order to account for uncertain U.S. economic factors.

He also believes the congressional agenda is packed with other priorities, like health care, climate change and war-related issues, and pushing an ambitious transportation plan now may not be wise.

"With the reality of our fiscal environment and the critical demand to address our infrastructure investments in a smarter, more focused approach, we should not rush legislation," LaHood said.

(Reporting by John Crawley and Lisa Lambert)

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