Young hopeful about highways bill

Posted: Sunday, May 16, 2004

WASHINGTON - National highway bills that could increase road spending in Alaska by more than a third have stalled as members of Congress argue over the proper spending level and procedural issues.

The bills propose to increase the amount of federal highway money, allocated by a formula, sent to Alaska over the next six years.

The House version of the bill also carries about $500 million in one-time spending for Alaska. The one-time money includes $200 million for a bridge over Knik Arm north of Anchorage and $137 million for a bridge over Tongass Narrows at Ketchikan.

The one-time money was added by U.S. Rep. Don Young, R-Alaska, the House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee chairman.

Young told Alaska reporters last week that he hopes to usher a bill into law this year.

"I'm an optimist," Young said. "I'm the little boy in the room full of horse manure. "I'm looking for the pony."

As Transportation chairman, Young was a prime author of the bill passed by the Republican-led House in early April. The House version would authorize highway and transit construction contracts worth about $284 billion nationwide during the next six years.

That's $100 billion less than Young wanted, but he agreed to the lower figure as a temporary compromise with the White House, which wants only $256 billion spent.

The Republican-led Senate in March passed a version that would spend about $318 billion.

The House bill would provide $2.16 billion for highways in Alaska during the next six years. The Senate version would provide $2.66 billion. During the past six years, the federal government provided about $1.96 billion.

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