Just a quick word on this weekend’s worthwhile report from the Pueblo Chieftain’s Patrick Malone–it’s an welcome opening for usual-suspect complaints, but you could have predicted from the beginning that the bridge-repair projects funded by 2009’s FASTER vehicle registration fee increases would take some time to get moving.
Bridge projects funded by vehicle registration fees, fines for registration and bonds are coming along slowly.
Six of the 121 bridges statewide that are covered by FASTER – Funding Advancement for Surface Transportation and Economic Recovery – have been completed since the Colorado Bridge Enterprise was created in 2009, according to Don Hunt, executive director of the Colorado Department of Transportation. Eighteen bridges are in the construction phase.
That leaves 97 of the 121 bridges awaiting construction. Eleven have designs complete; 46 more are in the design phase; and 40 have been prioritized as part of the program but no work has begun on them…
Annual assessments of bridges determine which are added to the list, Hunt said.
“It’s 100 percent (based) on bridge sufficiency rating, so the worst bridges get done first,” he said.
The admittedly slow pace of FASTER bridge repair, in addition to provoking reasonable questions from provincial advocates like Sen. Gail Schwartz, is sure to result in another round of wholesale denunciation of FASTER from conservatives in the legislature–or for that matter, any revenue increase to pay for bridge repair. As you know, conservative Republicans have attempted to repeal the FASTER fee increases each year, resulting in divisive infighting between them and leadership like Speaker Frank McNulty. McNulty, as we’ve discussed, made anti-FASTER rhetoric a key part of legislative campaign strategy last year for candidates under his wing, but proved surprisingly reasonable when it came time to actually govern. The reason is simple: Coloradans are driving on structurally unsound bridges. And fixing them costs money.
But sweeping anti-FASTER rhetoric is easy to recite, and well-suited to three-paragraph wire stories, and conservative pundits to write columns bemoaning clumsy “big government” and the crushing tax burden (in truth well below the national average) that Coloradans “already face.”
Rather than falling into that trap, why not simply ask how they would fix the bridges?