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The Oregonian

Why would Congress spend billions of dollars on new highway projects that could promote driving and related pollution in an era when thousands of bridges nationwide are crumbling?

The Oregon State Public Interest Research Group (OSPIRG) thinks it has the answer: Campaign contributions from highway builders to members of Congress. The group lays out its case in a report released Thursday called "Greasing the Wheels: the Crossroads of Campaign Money and Transportation Policy."

The group found that in 2008, only 74 of the 704 highway projects earmarked in the transportation appropriations bill were for projects that would repair or maintain a bridge, tunnel or overpass.

In Oregon, despite having 514 bridges that engineers classify as structurally deficient, Congress approved only one earmark for a bridge repair last year.

"In our current political system, elected officials must raise huge sums of campaign contributions from major donors to win reelection," said OSPIRG Director Dave Rosenfeld. "In part because of this, we believe that transportation spending is skewed toward road-widening and new highway projects favored by developers, road builders and the other interests who make those contributions."

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