By Ron VandenBoom
Funds for Montana transportation projects that include $2 million in funds to convert Highway 2 into a four-lane economic corridor have cleared a major congressional hurdle.
U.S. Sens. Conrad Burns and Max Baucusannounced that $2 million in federal funds have been approved by the Senate Appropriations Committee for what has become known as the 4 for 2 project.
Half of the money appropriated is earmarked for a feasibility study on the project and the other $1 million was described by Burns spokesman J.P. Donovan as "seed money" to be used for construction.
The appropriation, contained in a Senate bill, is far from final, and still faces approval by the full Senate, the U.S. House and approval from President Bush.
Baucus is the senior member of the Transportation subcommittee of the Senate Environment and Public Works Committee. Burns is a member of the Senate Appropriations Committee. Both committees played a part in moving the legislation forward.
A total of $32 million in transportation projects was approved by the Senate Appropriations Committee for Montana. Other projects in this area include $1.2 million to complete construction on the Lewis & Clark Interpretive Center access road in Great Falls and $1.1 million for a bus facility in Great Falls. Another $1 million will go for public access roads to Fort Peck Lake and the Charles M. Russell Wildlife Refuge.
Burns spokesman Jon Lindgren said this morning the important thing was to get the money in the bill. "And that has been done," he said.
Bill Lombardi, spokesman for Baucus, said this morning that Baucus is pleased to have been able to help get the project started and is a firm believer in the project.
"Senator Baucus will continue to ask for appropriations for the project at every opportunity," Lombardi said.
Lindgren said Burns too is a supporter of the project and is pleased to be able to help.