More CDOT money could boost Gibbs’ chain law bill
Summit County, CO ColoradoDENVER – State Rep. Dan Gibbs, D-Silverthorne, intends to reintroduce his controversial chain law bill to his colleagues next week and hopes the legislation will get an extra boost in light of state financial contributions that now stand to climb as high as $2.5 million. After pledging $1.2 million late last month toward addressing safety issues raised by truck drivers during debate on Gibbs’ bill, the Colorado Department of Transportation said this week it would try to bump that figure up to $2.5 million.CDOT Region 1 director Jeff Kullman said CDOT’s transportation commission would consider the request at its meeting on Thursday.”I anticipate that this will get approved,” he said, explaining that it’s a unique request because commissioners typically have a week to review issues before their meeting, but that they will hear this for the first time on Thursday.CDOT has not taken a stance on Gibbs’ House Bill 1229, but Kullman said last month the agency was dedicated to helping Gibbs’ succeed.Both rounds of money have materialized during meetings organized by Gibbs with representatives from CDOT, law enforcement agencies and the Colorado Motor Carriers Association in an attempt to resolve some of the sticking points that prevented the bill from passing out of committee on Feb. 20.Gibbs said he feels the group has made significant headway on the issues.”It’s been difficult to tell you the truth, but it’s been very fulfilling too,” Gibbs said. “We’ve come a long, long way and many of the points the truckers had concerns with … we’ve really been able to meet all of them.”Truckers’ main point of concern is a lack of designated chain-up areas on the I-70 corridor that are well-lit and protected from passing traffic.With the money it’s earmarked, CDOT plans to reduce speed for all traffic near chain-up areas, as well as add better lighting in those areas, and install new signs with flashing lights informing drivers that the chain law is in effect. CDOT will also expand some existing chain areas and potentially add new ones on the corridor.Another significant problem truckers had with Gibbs’ first version of his bill is that it proposed to add four points to the commercial driver’s license of a driver who causes a blocked lane of traffic as a result of failing to chain up.The Colorado Mountain Carriers Association felt that would put drivers’ careers unfairly at risk, and would discriminate against local drivers because out-of-state drivers likely wouldn’t be subject to the penalty.Gibbs said his newest version of the bill will forgo the points penalty because he recently learned of a law already on the books that allows police to issue a four-point ticket to truck drivers who ignore signs that indicate it’s illegal to proceed without the proper equipment, which includes chains.While that portion of the law hasn’t historically been enforced, Gibbs said he is talking to local law enforcement agencies about making sure that law is followed in the future.In lieu of the points, Gibbs said he will propose his new bill with at least a $1,000 fine if a driver doesn’t follow the chain law and blocks a lane of traffic and at least a $500 ticket for all other truck drivers who don’t abide by the chain law. He originally proposed a fine of $500 across the board. Right now the fine is $116, which increases to $500 for a blocked lane of traffic.If the measure passes, all the money collected from enforcement would siphon into the Highway Users Tax Fund for future safety projects.Gibbs is also drafting an amendment that would allow vendors to rent or sell chains on either side of the Eisenhower Tunnel, for instance in Dumont, that way tractor trailer truck drivers not carrying chains can still safely travel over the pass. Gibbs said he still firmly believes in his legislation, despite the changes from its original form.”I do think that this is very important for the mountain communities,” Gibbs said. “If this bill can save one person’s life, if it can minimize one road closure, if it can make it safer for people who live in the mountain communities to get home at night, then I really think this bill is still in the right direction.”A small working group including Gibbs and officials from CDOT, Colorado State Patrol and the Motor Carriers Association will continue on a regular basis to tackle longer term issue like enforcement and looking into whether rental car companies are providing adequate tires on their fleet – another concern of the truckers’. Nicole Formosa can be reached at (970) 668-4629, or at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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