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The car has always been king in the U.S., with trillions spent on roads and highways to allow access to virtually every corner of the country. But rising gas prices, pollution and congestion have led to reconsideration among federal and state transportation officials, who are now eying other modes of transportation, and putting money behind it.

In Chicago, more than $35 million in federal grants were awarded to help jump-start two bus projects designed to facilitate speedier travel through the city's downtown area. One project involves an express bus service with connections to passenger rail stations. Another project will fund additional bus service along a corridor with no rail connections. Chicago officials want to develop more bus routes to help improve transportation, and keep the cars at home. The federal funding is part of $300 million available for bus and trolley projects throughout the country, according to U.S. Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood.

Chicago isn't the only city looking beyond the car. In Kansas City, new emphasis is now being placed on improving and building new bus and rail projects, with the long-range goal of conserving energy and creating a more earth-friendly environment. Included in those plans are pedestrian and bike trails along with new rail and streetcar lines. More than $50 million in federal funding will be available to Missouri as part of the federal government's livable communities initiative, which promotes automobile alternatives to urban areas.

Officials say these measures are not designed to eventually replace the car, but to enhance public transportation by providing alternatives that will ultimately reduce traffic.

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