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Obama presses for more lasting highway funding

McLEAN, Va. (AP) — President Barack Obama said Tuesday he supports temporary measures to keep federal transportation aid flowing to the states and to keep construction crews on the job, while he also pressed Congress for a more permanent solution to the longstanding shortfall in funding for road and bridge-building projects.

The House was expected later Tuesday to pass a temporary patch for the Highway Trust Fund, which is projected to run dry next month unless Congress acts, the Transportation Department says. The measure cobbles together $10.8 billion from various sources to keep the fund solvent through May 2015. A similar bill is pending in the Senate. Obama said he supports the efforts by lawmakers in both chambers, but wants to see more.

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President Barack Obama tries out a driving simulation during a tour of the Turner-Fairbank Highway Research Cente in McLean, Va. (AP Photo/Jacquelyn Martin)

“At the very least Congress should be keeping people on the job who are already there right now,” he said after touring a federal highway research center in northern Virginia. “But all this does is set us up for the same crisis a few months from now. So Congress shouldn’t pat itself on the back for averting disaster for a few months.”

Obama said better roads and bridges will help boost the economy by keeping construction workers on the job and by ultimately saving time and money for businesses and commuters. Obama pushed his own $302 billion, four-year transportation spending plan, one partly paid for by closing corporate tax loopholes.

House Speaker John Boehner, R-Ohio, said Obama should push the Democratic-controlled Senate to act on his plan so the House can then review it.

“Until then, giving speeches about a long-term highway bill is frankly just more rhetoric,” Boehner said.

At the highway research center, Obama glimpsed developing technologies that he said would one day make cars smart enough to know whether another vehicle is coming around a blind corner or to let the driver know whether a detour would save time and fuel.

He tested everything from the seat of a Saturn driving simulator, a rare chance for the president to get behind a wheel – even if it was only on a virtual road.

“As the father of a daughter who just turned 16, any new technology that makes driving safer is important to me,” Obama said. “And new technology that makes driving smarter is good for the economy.”

 

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