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Bush Signs Highway Bill

President Bush has signed a $286 billion highway spending bill. Mr. Bush had originally threatened to veto the measure because it is more money than he wanted to spend.

Legislators on both sides of the political divide pack the transportation bill with funding for special projects in their home districts. More than six-thousand projects by some counts.

Alaska, for example, has the nation's third-smallest population but received more than $940 million in special funding, largely because Alaska Congressman Don Young is chairman of the House Transportation Committee.

U.S. taxpayers will spend more than $230 million building a bridge to an island with fifty inhabitants, a bridge to be named after Congressman Young.

During his re-election campaign, President Bush appealed to fiscal conservatives when he vowed to veto the highway bill unless Congress kept spending within his budget request.

Though the bill he signed is $30 billion above that level, White House officials say it is a better bill than it would have been because some in Congress would have taken the spending closer to $400 billion.

Signing the bill in the Midwest state of Illinois, President Bush called it central to continuing America's economic recovery.

"American people expect us to provide them with the safest possible transportation system, and this bill helps fulfill that obligation," said Mr. Bush. "This law makes our highways and mass transit systems safer and better, and it will help more people find work. And it accomplishes goals in a fiscally responsible way. We are not raising gasoline taxes in order to pay for this bill."

The six-year spending plan funds improvements to mass transit rail and bus systems, new highways and bridges, bike paths and recreational trails.