A long-delayed measure to make "technical corrections" to the 2005 SAFETEA-LU highway and transit statute has gained final congressional approval. The House passed the bill April 30 by a 358-51 vote; the Senate had approved it on April 17, by a vote of 88-2. The legislation next goes to the White House.

The bill makes changes in more than 400 projects authorized in SAFETEA-LU--the Safe, Accountable, Flexible, Efficient Transportation Equity Act--a Legacy for Users. Some of the changes correct what House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee Chairman James Oberstar (D-Minn.) called "inadvertent drafting errors." Other changes increase funding for SAFETEA-LU projects, or delete project authorizations. Oberstar said that many of the corrections were requested by agencies of the U.S. Dept. of Transportation.

Oberstar's committee says that before the latest vote, the House had approved SAFETEA-LU technical corrections bills four times since 2005, but those bills stalled in the Senate.

Funding for many projects has been delayed because SAFETEA-LU had incorrect names or locations, says Janet Oakley, American Association of State Highway and Transportation Officials' director of policy and government relations. "There's a lot of money being held up in projects that need to get out the door that can't get out the door until those 'fixes' are put in place," she says.

Senate Environment and Public Works Committee Chairman Barbara Boxer (D-Calif.), said enactment of the technical corrections bill "will unleash up to a billion dollars for critical highway and infrastructure projects and will create tens of thousands of jobs."

AASHTO Executive Director John Horsley says the new bill also will provide "significant additional funding" for the Future Strategic Highway Research Program. It also authorizes $22.6 million more than SAFETEA-LU did for transportation research centers at U.S. universities.

The legislation also has a provision directing Justice Dept. to "review allegations of impropriety" concerning a Florida highway project for which SAFETEA-LU authorized $10 million. It is alleged that the project's listing was changed after SAFETEA-LU was approved, during the bill's "enrollment" before it was sent to the White House. Rep. Don Young (R-Alaska), who chaired the Transportation and Infrastructure Committee when SAFETEA-LU was debated and approved said April 30, "This project was asked for by the community. It was supported by the congressman from that district, and there are letters to back that up."

Young said that enrollment of the SAFETEA-LU bill or other measures "is not a process I own or control. There are officers of the House and the Senate whose job it is to oversee this process....I have never been in an enrollment office, and I do not believe any chairman has that right."

"I welcome, if you want to welcome, an investigation into the House. I will support that. But, remember, that is a slippery, slippery road which we are about to be involved in."