I-70 snow tire bill defeated in Senate | SteamboatToday.com

I-70 snow tire bill defeated in Senate

Scott Franz
Drivers face winter driving conditions as traffic makes its way along Interstate 70 near Genesee in October 2013.
Courtesy Photo

— Colorado’s Senate Transportation Committee on Thursday narrowly killed another bill seeking to clarify tire traction requirements on Interstate 70 in the mountains.

The bill, crafted by State Reps. Diane Mitsch Bush, D- Steamboat Springs, and Bob Rankin, R-Carbondale, would have required all passenger vehicles to have adequate tires or chains or alternative traction devices from Oct. 1 to May 15 on the interstate between Morrison and Dotsero.

“I will just try again,” Mitsch Bush said after the bill was defeated by Senate Republicans on a 3-2 party line vote. “We will continue to work together with everyone to increase public safety and reduce closures on I-70, which is what the bill would have done.”

Mitsch Bush said she would take one of the dissenting Republican Senator’s comments that he felt the bill didn’t include enough enforcement of traction laws into consideration as she works again next year on a third effort to pass the bill.

Mitsch Bush, along with other lawmakers in the House, the Colorado Department of Transportation, the Colorado State Patrol, ski area executives, business owners and emergency responders along the I-70 corridor, believed the bill would have helped to prevent crashes and traffic headaches on the interstate in the winter.

State Sen. Randy Baumgardner, R-Hot Sulphur Springs, voted against the bill, deeming it redundant and unnecessary.

Shortly after the vote, Baumgardner tweeted out a text alert he had received from CDOT announcing a passenger chain law in effect on Loveland Pass.

“We already have a traction law. Thanks CDOT,” Baumgardner wrote.

The bill was also opposed by Senators Ray Scott, R-Grand Junction, and John Cooke, R- Greeley.

While the state does have a traction law, CDOT and emergency responders felt it needed an update.

Testifying recently in support of the bill, State Patrol Sgt. David Hall said by the time CDOT is able to put a chain law into effect, road conditions often have already deteriorated.

“By the time CDOT can declare an emergency, it’s too late to prevent anything,” Hall said.

Mitsch Bush said the bill aimed to correct that “critical gap.”

It didn’t take long Thursday for the tire bill vote to become an election issue.

Emily Tracy, the Democratic candidate who is challenging Baumgardner in District 8, was critical of the senators “no” vote, which helped kill the bill.

“Senator Baumgardner has shown once again that he does not represent his constituents — residents and businesses alike — who depend on traffic moving safely on I-70 during winter conditions,” Tracy said in a news release.

Tracy noted the Senate Transportation Committee heard hours of testimony in support of the bill.

“Not one single person or organization testified against the bill, which would have assisted commercial truckers and the traveling public in getting to their destinations,” Tracy said.

The bill had passed out of the House with strong bipartisan support.

Baumgardner made it clear last week he planned to oppose the bill.

In a lengthy op-ed against it, he said the real problem is that the roadway is in need of widening and modernization.

“I just don’t see how another tire traction law, on top of the tire traction law already on the books, will meaningfully address such a complex set of congestion-creating circumstances,” he wrote.

Mitsch Bush countered that a similar traction law passed in 2009 for commercial vehicles led to a decline in crashes and traffic delays caused by truckers.

To reach Scott Franz, call 970-871-4210, email scottfranz@SteamboatToday.com or follow him on Twitter @ScottFranz10

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