The US Congress has passed a five-year highways bill, totalling US$ 305 billion.

The bulk of the fund's budget – more than $ 207 billion – will go to highway projects, while another $49 billion will be set aside for mass transit.

President Obama is expected to sign off the bill, which will also provide money for rail, ferry and large-scale freight projects.

There was some opposition to the bill, both in the House of Representatives and the Senate, largely due to funds being used to renew the authorisation of the controversial US Export-Import Bank – a government organisation with a remit to secure the international sale of US goods.

The bill, however, finally cleared the Senate with votes of 83 to 16, after a favourable 359 to 65 vote in the House of Representatives.

Of the fund – the longest-running in almost two decades – the Senate Majority Leader, Mitch McConnell, said it would, “…finally provide state and local governments with the kind of certainty they need to focus on longer-term road and bridge projects. That’s a significant departure from years of short-term extensions."

Traditionally funded predominantly through fuel tax revenue, the Highway Trust Fund has been dwindling for some years.

Since 2008, it has been bolstered with over $ 70 billion from the Federal Reserve and opponents see the Reserve’s continuing support as setting a bad precedent.

In response to an increasing number of serious safety issues in the automotive industry, the bill will also increase the maximum civil penalties for motor-safety violations, from $ 35 million to $ 105 million.

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