"We recognize that our transportation system can benefit from understanding best practices abroad," the June 17 letter to LaHood says. "But we are unable to justify to the voters in our districts such spending in the face of rising gasoline prices and federal deficits."
The letter is signed by Reps. Jeff Denham (R-Calif.), Jason Altmire (D-Pa.), Rick Crawford (R-Ark.), Blake Farenthold (R-Texas), John Carter (R-Texas), Lou Barletta (R-Pa.), Steve Southerland (R-Fl.) and Randy Hultgren (R-Ill.).
U.S. Transportation officials said the program has been co-financed with the American Association of State Highway and Transportation Officials, and that it has produced some victories for taxpayers in the past. For instance, one trip to study prefabricated bridge technologies contributed to accelerated bridge replacement in a number of locations, with some jurisdictions reporting savings as a result.
LaHood sent his statement to ABC News Tuesday evening, saying he did not believe it met the strict test the administration is using to evaluate spending programs.
"From the outset of this administration, I have urged agency personnel to be judicious and cost-conscious in the use of official travel and we will not tolerate any abuse of the public trust," he said.
While a Transportation Department spokesperson said LaHood had already identified the program for the chopping block weeks ago, a new delegation departed on a round-the-world trip June 9 to study pavement and is still underway. That group will return June 26, as scheduled, officials said.