Bush to sign highway bill at Caterpillar plant

President Bush will sign the $286.5 billion transportation bill Aug. 10 at a Caterpillar plant in Montgomery, Ill., where most of the company’s wheel loaders and excavators are manufactured.

White House officials selected the plant Aug. 5 as the location where the president will sign the legislation. Allen Abney, a White House spokesman, told the Aurora Beacon News Caterpillar invited the president there, but would not discuss how the final decision was made.

“As you can imagine, the president gets invited to a lot of places,” he said. “He uses (his vacation time) as an opportunity to visit as many states as possible.”

Bush will be breaking from his time off in Texas to sign the Safe, Accountable, Flexible, and Efficient Transportation Equity Act: A Legacy for Users bill.

Caterpillar spokesman Jim Dugan said he wasn’t sure how the particular plant was selected, but it was a thrill for the president to sign the bill there.

“We’d be honored to have the president anywhere, but it sure makes sense that the site where the equipment that you see working on these transportation-type projects is made will be featured in a sort of ceremony for the highway bill,” Dugan said. “The bill will have a huge impact on our business.”

A time and schedule for the trip have not been announced, but House Speaker Dennis Hastert, whose congressional district includes Montgomery, is responsible for distributing 4,000 to 5,000 tickets to the event. Union representatives at the plant told the Aurora newspaper no workers have been notified of a change in schedule.

SAFETEA-LU includes a highway bridge program that calls for $100 million per year to be spent on bridge construction or improvement projects, including $12.5 million per year for the Golden Gate Bridge; $18.75 million per year for the construction of a bridge joining the island of Gravina to Ketchikan, Alaska; and $12.5 million per year for construction of a structure over the Mississippi River to connect St. Louis to Illinois.

Another portion of the legislation directs the Department of Transportation to establish and implement a program for highway construction in corridors of national significance in order to promote economic growth and international or interregional trade. It lists 33 earmarks for 24 states totaling $1.95 billion.

According to CNN, 6,371 special projects have been singled out for funding. They include the following:

  • $231 million for a bridge in Anchorage, Alaska
  • $330 million for the Centennial Corrider Loop in Bakersfield, Calif.
  • $121 million for 57 Minnesota projects, from $8 million for a highway project to $560,000 for the Paul Bunyon State Trail