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FAST Act Approved By Congress

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Oklahoma transportation officials are thanking Congress for passing a long-term highway funding bill for the first time in ten years.

Senator Jim Inhofe was a driving force behind the bill, which is expected to bring more than $3 billion to Oklahoma.

In total, the Fixing America's Surface Transportation (FAST) Act promises $305 billion to all 50 states over the next five years.

Oklahoma transportation officials say it will provide $643 million to the state in its first year. Slight increases to match inflation in the subsequent four years, they say, should bring the state's total to about $3.4 billion.

Funds from the federal gas tax will cover most, but not the entire cost of the measure. The act will call for $70 billion in subsidies from other sources, including $53.3 billion from the surplus of the Federal Reserve Bank and $6.9 billion [from] reducing the dividends that are paid to banks who are members of the Fed.

The legislation received overwhelming bipartisan support in the House, where members approved it by a vote of 359 to 65. The Senate passed it Thursday night, 83 to 16.

Critics believe this is a broken model for funding road and bridge projects in the states. They say federally funding highway projects is inefficient and overpriced. Others say the measure will leave the federal Highway Trust Fund in need of a massive bailout at the conclusion of the five-year period.

But state officials are applauding the move. A statement from the National Governors Association says the FAST Act will give the states "certainty and flexibility" in addressing their individual transportation infrastructure needs.

Senator Inhofe, (R) Oklahoma, says this was the responsible thing to do.

"When we take the oath of office, we hold up our hand--every senator does," Sen. Inhofe stated during a floor speech last night, "it says in there, the Constitution, the only two things that we are mandated to do, in article one, section eight, is to defend America, and roads and bridges."

Sen. Inhofe, Chair of the Senate Environment and Public Works Committee, estimates 61,000 of the nation's bridges are structurally deficient and 50 percent of our nation's roads in less than good condition.

President Obama has said he intends to sign the bill into law.

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