Ideas for Improving Bridge Safety Spark Debate

By: AP
By: AP

CAPITOL HILL (AP) _ There was some sparring Wednesday over a
suggestion to raise gas taxes to pay for safer bridges, in the aftermath of last month's deadly collapse in Minneapolis.

At a House committee hearing, panel chairman Jim Oberstar of Minnesota touted his plan to pay for a bridge trust fund with a 5-cent increase in the federal gas tax -- which currently stands at
18.3 cents.

But Transportation Secretary Mary Peters said that's not the answer. She says increasing taxes and spending won't improve the quality of the roads -- and that there should instead be better use of existing funds. Peters blamed congressional earmarks for diverting federal money from where it's needed.

Oberstar's plan would ban congressional and executive branch earmarks. It would set up a trust fund to repair and replace bridges that are part of the National Highway System.

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