updated 3/10/2005 5:34:11 PM ET 2005-03-10T22:34:11

Eighteen months late and billions of dollars short of what they wanted, House members on Thursday passed a highway bill designed to ease congestion, repair crumbling roads and prevent thousands of traffic fatalities.

“This will be the premier domestic legislation” of this congressional year, House Transportation Committee Chairman Don Young, R-Alaska, said before the 417-9 vote to approve the six-year, $284 billion measure to fund highway, mass transit and safety programs.

He said the bill could have an immediate affect on the average driver who spends a week and a half every year stuck in traffic and a nation that loses $67 billion in productivity and wasted fuel every year.

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