Sen. Kopp relishes FASTER’s slow start in funding crumbling bridge repair

In an e-Alert Thursday from — a blast from the Republican state Senate minority — Sen. Mike Kopp, R-Littleton, gushed about the lack of progress on fixing 125 bridges around the state deemed structurally deficient by the Colorado Department of Transportation (CDOT).

Kopp described his “gotcha” moment when he nailed CDOT chief Russ George on the fact that FASTER, the bill that jacked up vehicle registration fees to pay for the bridge fixes and is a favorite Republican election-year rallying cry, will not have funded a single bridge fix until construction begins on one next month.

Sen. Mike Kopp
Sen. Mike Kopp

“It was an absolute farce … It is a problem from a public trust standpoint,” Kopp told members of the joint and House and Senate Transportation Committee during a hearing Tuesday, according to the release. “The bill was positioned as a way to fix bridges that were in urgent need of repair and to create jobs.”

First of all, had Kopp read the Colorado Independent on Jan. 11, he would have known that FASTER is lagging in collections (mostly because the recession has torpedoed new car purchases) and that the bridge projects were just starting to come into the pipeline.

He also could have read a week earlier that some in his own party like Sen. Al White, with the backing of Dems like Gail Schwartz, are planning to tweak FASTER in order to do away with late fees, and he could have joined the dialogue on coming up with a long-term transportation funding source, something previous GOP-controlled legislatures have failed to do for years (not just a Dem failing).

While it is troubling that so many bridges in such dire straits remain unrepaired, one assumes they haven’t improved any on their own in the last six months, and certainly jobs are just as hot a commodity as they were last summer.

Nothing in the Kopp release either about how the minority would fund the fixes should they regain the majority and yank FASTER. Maybe more tolling around the state? Take more money away from K-12 education? Let’s see how that debate goes in the current economic climate.

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