State Sen. Al White, R-Hayden, right, hosts a town hall meeting at Centennial Hall on Wednesday to discuss the 2009 legislative session. He was joined by state Rep. Randy Baumgardner, R-Hot Sulphur Springs.

Photo by Matt Stensland

State Sen. Al White, R-Hayden, right, hosts a town hall meeting at Centennial Hall on Wednesday to discuss the 2009 legislative session. He was joined by state Rep. Randy Baumgardner, R-Hot Sulphur Springs.

Lawmakers discuss road, bridge repair

White, Baumgardner review legislative session in Centennial Hall meeting

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At a glance

Stacey Stegman, a Colorado Department of Transportation spokeswoman, said the state has not allocated any FASTER dollars to road and bridge projects. She added that the state doesn't expect to begin collecting increased vehicle registration fees until October.

According to CDOT, FASTER will generate $252 million annually. Funding will be dedicated to the state's more than 100 structurally deficient or functionally obsolete bridges - many of which are 75 years old - sections of Colorado highway that are up to 100 years old and sections of interstate that are up to 50 years old.

A CDOT list of "poor" state bridges in the state didn't indicate any were in Routt County.

Source: Colorado Department of Transportation

— State Sen. Al White said Wednesday that the FASTER legislation passed this year is just the beginning of a plan to rehab the state's aging roads and bridges.

The Funding Advancement for Surface Transportation and Economic Recovery, or FASTER, legislation will increase vehicle registration fees to generate $252 million for transportation projects. White, a Hayden Republican, and state Rep. Randy Baumgardner, R-Hot Sulphur Springs, discussed FASTER and other issues from this year's legislative session during a public meeting at Centennial Hall. The lawmakers also addressed Colorado's 2008-09 budget, which required adjustments to make up a $600 million shortfall.

"It was one of : if not the most difficult budget years any at the Capitol can remember," said White, a member of the Legislature's Joint Budget Committee.

But White and Baumgardner said there were a number of positives this year, despite the financial challenges.

White said FASTER was on that list, considering the alternatives to maintain the state's transportation infrastructure at a cost of as much as $1.5 billion annually. The alternative was implementing cost-saving programs such as reducing how often snow was plowed, which he said wasn't viable for the residents of his district.

"His vote on FASTER was courageous," said Routt County Commissioner Diane Mitsch Bush, who attended the meeting. She noted that White was the only Republican who supported the measure.

He also highlighted a bill that dedicated $1.2 million for Colorado hospitals to help provide care to uncovered populations. White mentioned passage of a bill that requires insurance companies to provide compensation for families with autistic children.

"This makes a huge impact on our families," said Lu Etta Loeber, executive director of the Yampa Valley Autism Program, referring to the 60 families the program serves in Routt and Moffat counties. "We don't have to fight insurance companies every day, every minute, for basic services."

White also mentioned a couple of bills that weren't passed, including repealing the death penalty and eliminating the state's business personal property tax, both of which he opposed.

Both legislators said budget issues could return after the 2009-10 budget was adjusted to close a $400 million gap. White said the April revenue figures were tracking with what was budgeted and the state has $136 in reserves and $50 million in federal stabilization funds it also could use, should expenditures exceed revenues.

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