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State transportation bill gets talk in Glenwood

Pete Fowler
Glenwood Springs correspondent
Aspen, CO Colorado
Kelley Cox/Post IndependentColorado lawmaker Kathleen Curry conducts a question-and-answer session for citizens at the Glenwood Springs Community Center Thursday evening. More than 150 people crowded in to the conference area to participate.
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GLENWOOD SPRINGS ” Colorado Speaker of the House Terrance Carroll prays every time he drives over the Interstate 70 viaduct in Denver.

“I’m a Baptist preacher. I pray every time I go over that thing,” he said at a town hall style-event with Rep. Kathleen Curry Thursday night. “After I went under it, I prayed for everybody else now who has to go over it.”

The I-70 viaduct is on Colorado’s list of 126 “structurally deficient or functionally obsolete” bridges, Carroll said. He added, “That’s the same type of bridge in Minnesota that fell through.”

The Grand Avenue Bridge in Glenwood Springs is also on the list. In late 2007, the Colorado Department of Transportation said the Grand Avenue Bridge was not “unstable.” It was rated at 47.7 on a scale of 1-100. The bridge that collapsed in Minnesota in late 2007 was rated 50. However, the rating is not meant to imply that a bridge is unsafe or likely to collapse.

The public safety concerns as well as spending on infrastructure to create jobs in an ailing economy both made it a “no brainer” for Carroll to support the Funding Advancement for Surface Development and Economic Recovery (FASTER) bill that passed last week, he said.

The bill will phase in a vehicle registration fee increase averaging $41 more for most vehicles over three years. The bill also involves rental car fees, bonds and possible road tolls. It’s meant to provide $250 million a year for transportation infrastructure left without enough funding by declining gas tax revenues. But Carroll said. “What we raise with FASTER is just actually a modicum of what we actually need.”

Carroll said the governor’s blue ribbon transportation panel says the state needs at least a half-billion a year to keep pace with transportation maintenance needs.

Critics of FASTER have said the fee is too high during a time of economic downturn and the money should come from other sources. One man in the audience Thursday said it would drive him to get rid of his smaller, more fuel-efficient cars and keep only his one heavier truck that he needs for work.

Curry said passage of the FASTER bill was “a pretty contentious process but we think we ended up with a pretty good product.”

“I really agonized over this bill because it’s comprehensive and it comes at a tough time for people to have to pay additional money on their registration fee when the economy is tanking,” she said. “I was a no vote until the last minute, much to Mark Gould’s dismay, who’s been calling me every day.”

The latter comment drew a collective chuckle from the audience at the Community Center.

Curry said she initially couldn’t get on board with the bill because of its bonding aspect, but she finally voted in support of the bill after Governor Bill Ritter told her, “Our legacy can be a debt service payment or bridges falling down, but either way we leave this in the hands of our children.”

pfowler@postindependent.com


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