- The Washington Times - Wednesday, September 13, 2000

Sen. Pete V. Domenici does not approve of an extra $600 million for the $2 billion Woodrow Wilson Bridge replacement coming from the federal government's general fund.

The New Mexico Republican said in a Sept. 5 letter to Senate Majority Leader Trent Lott that extra funding should come from Maryland's and Virginia's share of the federal highway trust fund.

Mr. Domenici, who heads the Senate Budget Committee, supports "funding and renovation of the WWB."

"The only issue is whether the funds should come from the trust fund account or the general fund," the senator's spokesman said. "The trust fund set up an agreement that should be honored."

In July, Transportation Secretary Rodney Slater and Virginia Sens. John W. Warner and Charles S. Robb secured a deal that would have tapped the general fund for extra money to complete work on the federally owned bridge.

Both senators yesterday said they were bemused by the Domenici letter, although each said the bridge replacement would be built on time, with the first section completed by 2004.

"The bridge is still a federal commitment and I plan to speak with Senator Domenici about the issue," said Mr. Robb, a Democrat.

Warner spokesman Carter Cornick said Mr. Domenici "has to speak on any number of projects," noting that the bridge is just one item to be considered as Congress passes its appropriations bills.

Sources familiar with the budget said Mr. Domenici's letter was more of an "inside baseball" move on the Hill to keep anyone from "sneaking in a special project."

Mr. Domenici does not want to let Virginia and Maryland use the general fund for transportation projects when other states must rely on the highway trust fund, budget sources said.

"The concern is that we would be using the general fund to spend on local transportation projects. It's setting a dangerous precedent," said a Budget Committee staffer who asked not to be identified.

Congress has appropriated $900 million for the 12-lane bridge replacement, and the states are each contributing $200 million.

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