By Tim Leeds 

Highway Bill passes out of Senate committee


A bill to set highway spending for the next two years is moving on to the floor of the Senate, with Montana's senior U. S. senator saying it could be debated as soon as next week.

Sen. Max Baucus, D-Mont., said in a release Tuesday that the bill he helped craft not only maintains highway funding at the current levels through the next two years, it is fully paid.

The bill should bring significant benefits to Montana, Baucus added.

"Montana is a highway state, and we've seen firsthand that smart investments in our transportation system yield big returns for jobs and businesses. Every investment in a bridge is an investment in a good-paying construction job, and every investment in a road is an investment in a Montana business that ships goods and services across the state and across the country, " Baucus said. "This bipartisan bill makes smart investments in Montana jobs and American infrastructure, and it does it responsibly without adding a dime to the federal deficit. "

The Baucus release said that the last Highway Bill, passed in 2005, brought more than $2.3 billion to Montana for highway construction projects and helped create and sustain more than 18,000 good-paying jobs across the state.

The bill passed out of the Senate Finance Committee, which Baucus chairs, Monday. The senator also helped craft the financial framework of the bill in the Environment and Public Work Committee, where he is a senior member. That passed out of committee unanimously.

A representative of Baucus' said this morning that the bill continues the previous level of funding for transit systems. North Central Montana Transit Director Jim Lyons said he is researching how the funding is likely to impact the Havre-based bus system.


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