Senate staff and state officials worried during a conference here last week that legislation pending before the House Transportation Committee would go too far by creating a federal office with the power to reject public-private partnership agreements for highways that received federal aid.

The bill introduced this summer by committee chairman James L. Oberstar, D-Minn., would establish an Office of Public Benefit within the Federal Highway Administration that would be charged with "protection of the public interest" with regard to toll projects and P3 agreements on highways that receive federal funding.

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