Senate amendment takes air out of Colorado snow tire bill
A bill that would require all drivers to have snow tires or chains during inclement weather on Interstate 70 spun out with an amendment that passed during a third reading in the Colorado Senate. The amendment, introduced by Sen. Randy Baumgardner, R-Hot Sulphur Springs, on Tuesday, would turn the proposal into a study with the Transportation Review Legislative Committee (TRLC), effectively removing all binding power.
“I’m not sure what they’re looking for with this amendment,” said Rep. Diane Mitsch-Bush, D-Steamboat Springs, a proponent of the bill. “The bill’s not quite dead yet. … It’s on life support.”
Mitsch-Bush motioned for a conference committee to remove the amendment on Thursday. The committee of six, three representatives and three senators, would discuss the amendment and vote on it, with a simple majority required to change the bill.
As it was originally proposed, the bill would extend requirements to passenger drivers to have snow tires, chains or other traction devices on stretches of I-70 where trucks are required to chain up. Drivers who slide and cause an accident or a lane closure during icy conditions would be fined if they had bald tires. Fines would be $100 for an accident, or $500 for a lane closure. However, patrollers would not pull cars over for the sole purpose of inspecting tires.
Sen. Baumgardner released a statement Wednesday morning explaining his reasoning behind the amendment.
“While there is no dispute that congestion along the I-70 Corridor can create especially hazardous driving conditions during winter months, inevitably leading to accidents and delays, no convincing case has yet been made that one subset of highway users is disproportionately responsible for the problem or that a tougher chain law would make the situation measurably better,” Baumgardner wrote. “Before we take the major step of requiring every driver who travels that way in winter to carry chains and know how to use them, it makes sense to study this issue vigorously before taking action because of the large implications of this bill.”
Mitsch-Bush disagrees, however, saying the issue was discussed in transportation review committee, where she proposed an earlier version of the bill.
“I’m really sick of these Washington-style politics,” she said.
Summit’s Board of County Commissioners supported the original version of the bill, which was based on language in current the truck chain law, which was proposed by Commissioner Dan Gibbs when he served as a state representative.
“I’m not aware of one person in Summit County that’s in opposition to this bill,” Gibbs said. “I would just hope our representatives and senators would listen closely to their counties.”
Gibbs pointed to a 2006 study by the Denver Metro Chamber of Commerce saying that over the course of that year, traffic on I-70 cost mountain communities $2.1 million.
CDOT also supports the legislation, which follows its initiative to educate Coloradans about their tires and needed treads. In November, the department partnered with tire companies across the state to provide discounts on snow tires.
“The heavy emphasis on that is that we’re not in it alone; passenger cars have a responsibility to drive responsibly, and make sure you’re driving a vehicle that is prepared for conditions,” CDOT communications director Amy Ford said.
She added that during a large snowstorm last January, 54 vehicles spun out in one day. Of the 22 cars that tow trucks were able to help, 19 had completely bald tires and 18 were from Colorado.
“For every minute delayed, it takes six minutes to clear the queue behind you,” Ford said. “It’s a telling stat.”
Start a dialogue, stay on topic and be civil.
If you don't follow the rules, your comment may be deleted.