Here's the scoop:
* Total: $286.4 billion over 2004-2009, up from $218 billion in the 1998-2003 highway act.
* Includes more than $50 billion for bus, train and other transit programs and $6 billion for transportation safety programs.
* Ensures that by 2008 every state will get at least 92 percent return in federal grants for contributions made, through the federal gasoline tax, to the Highway Trust Fund.
* Guarantees that every state will see a minimum increase of 19 percent over its 1998-2003 funding level.
- Critics questioned the merits of many projects. The bill will pay for more than 6,000 favored projects that are valued at $24 billion in the districts of nearly every member of Congress, according to Taxpayers for Common Sense. It will pay for new highways and bridges, for rail and bus facilities, for bike paths and recreational trails.
The distribution of the money for these projects "is based far more on political clout than on transportation need," said Keith Ashdown, vice president of policy for the group.
For example, Alaska, the third-least populated state, got the fourth-most money for special projects ‚Ä" $941 million ‚Ä" thanks largely to the work of its lone representative, House Transportation Committee Chairman Don Young. That included $231 million for a bridge near Anchorage to be named "Don Young's Way" in honor of the Republican.
And in California the signing of the bill means single occupant hybrids get access to carpool lanes:
- Only three hybrid models ‚Ä" Toyota's Prius and Honda's hybrid Civic and Insight ‚Ä" will be allowed in the lanes. They are the only models that meet the eligibility standards of at least 45 miles per gallon and almost no smog-causing emissions.
But hybrids' actual mileage is often lower than advertised. Consider Honda's Civic hybrid. The EPA says it gets 48 mpg. But when Consumer Reports tested it in real world driving conditions it got only 36 mpg.
More on misguided hybrid love here.
The Prez says that ‚Äúthis is more than just a highway bill; it's a safety bill.‚Äù For example it establishes a safety belt incentive grant program.
Notice that the incentive is for greater seat belt use, not, for example, lower fatality rates. So states, like Massachusetts and New Hampshire, that have very low seat belt use rates and very low highway fatality rates are out of luck.
More on that here.
Transcripts of W.‚Äôs speech here.