House Approves Transportation Bill, Expansion Of Ignition Locks

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The House has given its strong approval to several transportation-related bills.

First, on a unanimous roll call vote, the House gave its support to next year’s Transportation Bill.

The measure allocates almost $640 million to a variety of local and state transportation programs and federal funds account for roughly two thirds of the overall budget.

The bill increases spending on local and state road, bridge and culvert projects by just over $100 million. House Transportation chairman Patrick Brennan says most of the new money is directly related to the damages caused by Tropical Storm Irene:

(Brennan) "That’s $103 million larger than the last budget which was 536.3. In comparison however it’s a little misleading because it ignores all the disaster relief spending which was obviously not appropriated last spring in the FY12 budget."

The legislation also includes $65 million in FEMA grants for town bridges.

The House also gave its strong approval to legislation that expands the state’s ignition interlock program for drunk drivers. The program is voluntary and it allows people convicted of DUI to continue to drive their car as long as they agree to have the interlock system installed on their car.

The system includes an on-board breathalyzer machine. If the driver records more than a .02 alcohol level, the car won’t start.

Shrewsbury Rep. Eldred French says the program is more effective than simply suspending an individual’s license for a DUI infraction:

(French) "There’s great evidence both statistically and also by hearsay that people will drive without their licenses. It’s a rural state, people have jobs they have to get around they have obligations they’ll roll the dice and without their licenses continue to drive and in many cases continue to drive drunk." 

Both transportation bills are scheduled to come up for final approval in the House on Wednesday. They will then go to the Senate.

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