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New transportation bill with bridge funds is controversial

The U.S. Senate passed a bill for transportation funding including $1 billion for bridge repair, but the bill was also packed with congressional "earmarks" ranging from new bike trails in Cambridge-Isanti Minnesota to a minor-league baseball Stadium in Billings, Mont. according to StarTribune.com. The Tribune says that In total the earmarks-- "defined as congressional directives written into law for specific projects" -- amount to $2.5 billion in the recent bill passed by the U.S. Senate. In addition to the new bike trails U.S. Sens. Norm Coleman, R-Minn., and Amy Klobuchar, D-Minn. guaranteed funds for additional light rail lines including one connecting Minneapolis and St. Paul says StarTribune.com.

Earmarks are common additions in transportation bills that members of Congress seek for transportation needs that the federal government is not legally responsible for, but the controversial earmarks to this recent bill are commonly referred to as "pork-barrel" spending. The Star Tribune makes note of such projects like the Peace Garden on the North Dakota/Canada border, and the critics in Congress that such earmarks attract. "The bridge in Minnesota didn't fail as much as Congress failed," said Rep. Tom Coburn, R-Okla. who also called for an investigative into the allocation of funds in this transportation bill says StarTribune.com. USA Today says that the report found that often "low-priority" earmark projects edge out more important projects such as the Federal Aviation Administration's plan to update high-priority air-traffic control towers.

"No one in America seriously believes that bike paths, peace gardens and baseball stadiums are more important national priorities than bridge and road repairs," Coburn said. USA Today said Coburn proposed an amendment to put a halt on all earmarks until all bridges labeled structurally deficient are fixed, but it lost 82 to 14.

StarTribune.com
Funding for bridges served with a side of pork
http://www.startribune.com/587/story/1421821.html

USA TODAY
$8B in pork clogs U.S. infrastructure plans
http://www.usatoday.com/news/washington/2007-09-12-earmarks_N.htm