By  on November 15, 2007

WASHINGTON — The House passed a $105.6 billion measure Wednesday, by a vote of 270 to 147, to provide money for the nation's highways, but ban funding for a Bush administration pilot program allowing long-haul Mexican trucks to operate across the U.S.

The proposal gives $40 billion to improve the interstate highway system in the 2008 fiscal year, $631 million more than President Bush requested. However, the plan, which must pass the Senate, faces a presidential veto because it exceeds Bush's budget ceiling.

In addition to providing the road-improvement allocation, the bill would prohibit the use of funds to allow Mexico-based trucks to operate beyond the commercial zones in the U.S., which Bush has tried to implement for years.

Cross-border trucking between Mexico and the U.S., a stipulation in the North American Free Trade Agreement enacted in 1994, has been stymied by legal challenges, safety concerns over substandard Mexican trucks and opposition from the Teamsters union.

The Bush administration has gone ahead anyway, using existing funds from the Department of Transportation that allowed as many as 100 Mexican carriers to send trucks to the U.S. for a year.

The House and Senate have passed legislation prohibiting money for the program, but that doesn't affect existing funds. The House and Senate bills went to a conference committee to craft compromise legislation.

In September, the DOT said it cleared three Mexican trucking companies to make long-haul deliveries in the U.S. and those firms are operating. U.S. trucking companies also have access to Mexican roads as part of the deal.

For apparel importers, which shipped 3.1 billion square meter equivalents in apparel and textiles valued at $5.75 billion from Mexico to the U.S. for the year ended Sept. 30, enactment of the bill would vanquish their hopes of cutting transportation costs by not having to transfer goods to U.S. trucks at the border.

The bill would also provide $100,000 for street and signage improvements for the L.A. Fashion District, a special project for the 90-block Business Improvement District requested by Rep. Lucille Roybal-Allard (D., Calif.).

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