Dem signs on to FASTER reform as CDOT confirms collections lagging

Looks like state Sen. Al White, R-Hayden, will have some bipartisan support in his bid to modify late fees for vehicle registrations this session– a bit of a local Tea Party issue for state Republicans enraged by what they considered a Dem tax ambush last session.

Funding Advancements for Surface Transportation and Economic Recovery (FASTER) upped registration fees and late fees for failing to register, all in the interest of raising money to fix 125 structurally unsound bridges around the state. Democrat Gail Schwartz, D-Snowmass Village, in an article in the Aspen Times over the weekend, said she’s eyeing “tweaking” at least the fine portion of a bill she helped push through last session.

Sen. Gail Schwartz
Sen. Gail Schwartz

No one disputes the idea that fixing crumbling bridges and roads is a good idea, but since lawmakers for years have failed to find a permanent funding source to keep up on basic maintenance and upgrades for the state’s road system, FASTER was seen by Democrats as a necessary evil.

Now it turns out the program is lagging in even collecting the projected $250 million a year, and, according to the Colorado Department of Transportation, none of the bridges have been fixed yet.

“Yes, it’s true the FASTER revenues are coming in lower than projected,” CDOT spokeswoman Stacey Stegman told the Colorado Independent. “For example, the bridge fund was originally projected to bring in $50.6 million in [fiscal year] ’10. We now anticipate $45.6 million.

“We haven’t started construction of any of the FASTER bridges yet as most are in design. We weren’t expecting to begin construction until late spring or summer. Basically, it just means that we’ll not be able to do as many this year. We never had a definite plan though anyway, just a list of candidate projects.”

Stegman added that the Bridge Enterprise Board is also looking at other ways to fund the bridge repairs – including bonding and bundling projects — for future years.

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