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WASHINGTON - Sen. Max Baucus of Montana and Sen. Chuck Grassley of Iowa have proposed to inject $8 billion into the federal highway fund, to prevent shortfalls that would hit hard at state highway programs.

Democrat Baucus chairs the Senate Finance Committee and Grassley is the ranking Republican on the panel. They cite the possible effect of rising gas prices and less travel on the federal Highway Trust Fund, a concern shared by state highway officials nationwide.

The federal Transportation Department reported last week that Americans drove 1.4 million fewer highway miles in April, compared with the same month a year ago.

Another factor is the trend toward driving more fuel efficient vehicles, a development that could affect highway funding in the long term.

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