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Members of Florida's congressional delegation and local officials appeared before a House Transportation Committee and put out their hands for federal money in building roads and transit projects.

The biggest request was $243-million for the Tampa Bay Regional Rail Project, an 83-mile rail system from the Lakeland area to Tampa Bay. Hillsborough County Commissioner Ed Turanchik spoke in favor of the project, as did freshman Rep. Jim Davis of Tampa.

Hoping to prevent committee members from choking on the huge figure, the folks from Hillsborough argued that their railroad is cheaper than most.

"The per-mile cost of the project is very modest compared to other transit systems being built in the United States," Davis said.

Turanchik, the project's most vocal advocate, estimates that between 30,000 and 70,000 riders will use the system every day.

Rep. Michael Bilirakis, R-Palm Harbor, endorsed the rail system, but asked the committee to consider sending a little money his way, too. He sought federal help in paying for a north-south transportation corridor in Pinellas County and widening I-75 to six lanes in Pasco County.

The committee was inundated with requests as Congress begins work on the reauthorization of the nation's transportation programs. President Clinton last week called for a six-year, $175-billion transportation spending plan that is 11 percent bigger than the blueprint that is set to expire.

Off to Asia, again

The joke in the lobby off the House floor these days is that if Mark Foley ever has trouble winning re-election in his West Palm Beach district he can run for mayor of Shanghai.

The second-term Republican makes his second trip of the year to Asia later this month as part of a congressional delegation led by Speaker Newt Gingrich. Foley aims to persuade the Chinese to open their markets to Florida citrus growers.

"If we can get a toehold in there, it will be a tremendous boon for growers and shippers," said Foley.

Also on the agenda are China's human rights abuses, although Foley said he is urging the group to "tread carefully. If we insult them, we're not going to make any progress."

The bipartisan group will visit Seoul, Hong Kong, Beijing, Shanghai and Tokyo.

Tough at the top

It was a rough week for the man running the Senate.

First, moderates in his party balked at Majority Leader Trent Lott's compromise on investigating alleged fund-raising abuses in the 1996 campaign. The uprising over lunch Tuesday forced the Mississippi Republican to cave in to Democratic requests to broaden the Senate inquiry to cover all improper activities, rather than just illegal activities.

Then Sen. Barbara Boxer, D-Calif., embarrassed him on the floor by refusing to allow committee work on a bill to locate a low-level nuclear waste dump.

Under Senage rules, Lott needed unanimous approval for a parliamentary maneuver to move on the bill. Boxer refused.

"I have been trying to be cooperative," Lott fumed on the Senate floor. "This is not a good sign, but it is just one of many bad signs that we are seeing . . . from the standpoint of being able to work together for the good of the country. So it is a very unfortunate decision, and it will not be without consequences."


"Boy, that'd be great, wouldn't it?"

_ Defeated GOP nominee Jack Kemp when asked about if he were now vice president.

"Somebody said they're going to do fund-raisers by allowing folks to sign his cast."

_ Lott, to a gathering of Republican women, on the president's injury.

_ Information from Times staff writers Ceci Connolly and David Dahl and the Associated Press was used in this report.