Tipton’s stubbornness could derail RFTA project | AspenTimes.com

Tipton’s stubbornness could derail RFTA project

Last year Rep. Scott Tipton ran for Congress on a platform that he would reel in excess spending by the government. Last week he showed that not only is he sticking to his word, he’s sticking it to Roaring Fork Transportation Authority as well.

Tipton apparently considers the $15,000 RFTA needs to fund wireless Internet service on its buses as an unnecessary expense. That’s the chief reason he withheld backing for a $25 million grant that Senators Mark Udall and Michael Bennet, along with Rep. Jared Polis, all Democrats, all support.

The trio sent a letter last week urging the Federal Transportation Authority to release the grant, which would help fund RFTA’s rapid-transit plan.

Tipton, however, is not on board with the request.

This week his spokesman, Josh Green, told The Aspen Times that the congressman “is very supporting of making sure there is access to public transportation,” but noted that there were “extra things we can’t get behind completely.”

Evidently Wi-Fi service is one of those “extra things.”

If this is Tipton’s way of sending a message that he’s an advocate of belt-tightening during Washington’s fiscal crisis, he should reconsider what he’s actually saying.

First, Wi-Fi service on RFTA buses would serve as an excellent way to entice commuters to take public transportation rather than their own personal vehicles.

Attracting more riders with such perks as Wi-Fi would put less stress and impact on Highway 82 and the environment, while Tipton’s opposition is seemingly shortsighted and misguided.

It’s clear Tipton is trying to show fiscal restraint, and his position on the RFTA grant is one shining example of that approach. But he’s picking the wrong battle. RFTA has been working for years with the FTA to pare down its grant application with only necessary components to make this a worthwhile project.

The $15,000 cost for Wi-Fi is hardly a lavish expense, and we contend that wireless Internet is a vital function for a modern-day bus service. We hope Tipton reserves his position in time for the grant to be extended to RFTA. The project is shovel-ready, and it would be a downright shame if Tipton’s stubbornness stalled a project that will enhance the Roaring Fork Valley’s quality of life.

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