The U.S. Senate has approved a new two-year highway bill that could be worth as much as $700 million a year for Minnesota transportation projects.
The two-year $109-billion bill sailed through the normally deadlocked Senate by a vote to 74-22. Minnesota will see a small increase in federal highway money, which also goes to fund rail and mass transit projects.
But the Republican-controlled House could be a roadblock. Leaders there say the bill is too expensive, doesn't ease enough environmental rules and should run for five years instead of two.
Sen. Al Franken said budget constraints and political gridlock prevented a longer-term bill.
"In the past, when I've been here, we've been passing three-month extensions so this is much better than that," he said.
Sen. Amy Klobuchar, D-Minn., said the House should just pass the Senate legislation.
"Basically this was a bipartisan bill from the beginning, middle and the end and I hope the House treats it that way," she said. "Otherwise all of the projects that are going in Minnesota that are federally funded could come to an abrupt end at the end of March."
The bill contains a measure inserted by Franken to make it easier for states to tap federal highway money to fix bridges in disrepair. It also contains an amendment pushed by Klobuchar that would allow truckers to put in longer hours during harvest and planting seasons.
The House returns to Washington next week.