Senate approves $7bn highway trust fund refill

The US House of Representatives has already approved a similar measure, paving the way for the US’ main source of funding for highway infrastructure to remain solvent through the end of the government’s current fiscal year ending 30 September.

The US Senate has approved a $7 billion infusion into the Highway Trust Fund, the government’s main funding source for highway projects, which is forecasted to be running on empty as soon as the beginning of September.

The measure, which passed by a vote of 79 to 17, is aimed at keeping the Trust Fund solvent through the end of the government’s current fiscal year, which ends in September 2009.

The vote came late last night after the US House of Representatives approved a similar measure.

The Senate approval clears the way for the bill to be signed into law by President Obama before Congress leaves for its August recess.

The Trust Fund, which was designed by lawmakers to approach a zero balance near the end of its authorisation under the 2005 surface transportation bill known as SAFETEA-LU (Safe, Accountable, Flexible, Efficient Transportation Equity Act: A Legacy for Users), has zeroed out much earlier than expected due to declines in travel, high fuel prices and the recession, prompting the emergency measure by lawmakers to preserve its funding.

Faced with a similar problem last year, Congress patched up the highway trust fund with an emergency $8 billion of interim funding.