I-70 winter tire bill to return
Steamboat Springs — A bipartisan pair of Western Slope legislators is renewing an effort to pass a law to help prevent costly winter traffic snarls on Interstate 70 in the mountains.
And this time around, the legislators are hopeful their efforts will find more traction.
State Rep. Diane Mitsch Bush, D-Steamboat Springs, and Rep. Bob Rankin, R-Carbondale, will again introduce a bill that would require drivers of passenger vehicles to have chains or winter tires with adequate tread whenever there is snow and ice on I-70 between Morrison and Dotsero.
Drivers with all-wheel or four-wheel drive and adequate tread would also be in compliance.
A similar piece of legislation proposed by the representatives during the last legislative session lost traction in the Senate after earning bipartisan support in the House.
Some critics questioned whether the bill would be effective, and it became a study instead.
The study results are in, and the legislators behind the winter tire legislation say the results continue to show new rules are warranted.
“The data from the 2014 winter season showed very, very clearly that, once again, the majority of closures of I-70 that were caused by inadequate traction were caused by passenger vehicles, not trucks,” Mitsch Bush said. “Ten years ago, the vast majority was trucks. Then they put a new law into place.”
The proposed bill would make winter tire and chain requirements that already apply to trucks and commercial vehicles also apply to passenger vehicles.
Mitsch Bush said the upcoming bill, which is being drafted this week, will be more clear and simple than the previous legislation.
The bill will not make tread requirements more stringent, create checkpoints or increase the fines drivers face if they cause an accident or delay because of their tires.
Rather, the bill is more about timing.
Currently, drivers of passenger vehicles must only adhere to winter tread and chain requirements if the state has put a chain law into effect.
The new law would require drivers to have chains or adequate tire tread whenever winter driving conditions exist.
Mitsch Bush said the chain law for passenger vehicles, known as a code 15, can be difficult to call.
She said the current law also makes it “impossible” for the Colorado Department of Transportation to create signage that clearly states the winter tire requirements for passenger vehicles.
Because of this, variable message signs currently read “snow tires recommended” during winter weather.
The new law could allow CDOT to change that message to read “snow tires required.”
Mitsch Bush was in Vail on Thursday afternoon talking to that city’s police chief about plans for new I-70 driving rules.
The previous legislation had the backing of the Colorado State Patrol, CDOT and the state’s ski industry.
The law would have cost the state less than $5,000 to implement.
Lawmakers will consider the new tire bill in November.
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