Colorado I-70 winter tire bill to return
What it does
In its current form, the proposed bill to create traction requirements for winter driving on Interstate 70 through the mountains would:
• Specify mile markers between which passenger cars must have “adequate traction equipment.”
• Specify that motorists must have that equipment when the interstate is snowy and icy.
• Clarify existing legal definitions of adequate tires and other equipment.
• Require the Colorado Department of Transportation to educate drivers and have signs informing them of the requirements.
A bill making clear that passenger vehicles must have “adequate traction equipment” when traveling the mountainous portions of Interstate 70 in the winter will be introduced in the Legislature for a second time next year.
The proposal, co-sponsored by Reps. Bob Rankin, R-Carbondale, and Diane Mitsch Bush, D-Steamboat Springs, was broadly supported last year by private groups, local governments and two state agencies. It passed the House of Representatives, but in the Senate was turned into a study rather than a law.
A new, clearer version won endorsement last week from the Legislature’s Transportation Legislation Review Committee, Rankin said. “I think we have a good chance of getting it done,” he said.
The bill clarifies that requirements already in place for commercial vehicles also apply to passenger vehicles.
“This proposed bill does not increase fines, add checkpoints or make existing tread requirements more stringent,” Mitsch Bush wrote in a email. “Rather it clarifies motorists’ responsibilities and requires that (the Colorado Department of Transportation) provide public education and proper signage. Motorists are already required to have proper equipment when the passenger vehicle portion of the chain law is in effect; however most motorists are not aware of these existing requirements.”
Rankin said he will study the effectiveness of a practice in California under which “vendors at the bottom of the hill would sell and install chains” for people who don’t have them. Rankin said traction devices can cost as little as $25, so the law wouldn’t impose a financial hardship — one of opponents’ objections last year.
He and others have noted that a high percentage of I-70 closures in the winter are attributed to spin-outs by vehicles with balding tires.
RAISING PUBLIC AWARENESS
Vail Town Council member Dale Bugby was an early supporter of the 2015 proposal. He said he believes the new bill “has a much better shot” at becoming law.
“The best part for me is the educational provisions to educate the driving public,” Bugby said. “I think even more than enforcement, education may be missing these days.”
That education will rely in part on the variable message signs on I-70 from roughly Golden to west of Glenwood Springs.
Mitsch Bush said if this law passes, CDOT will be able to put “snow tires required” on those signs whenever “snowy and icy conditions” exist along the corridor. As the law currently stands, those signs can only “recommend” snow tires or chains.
Margaret Bowes is the director of the I-70 Coalition, a nonprofit group of local governments and private organizations located along the highway’s mountain corridor. She’s also optimistic about the next bill’s chances for success.
“There was a lot of misunderstanding about the (first) bill,” Bowes said, adding that opponents believed the law was creating new requirements for drivers.
“This time around, the bill will be clear that it’s clarifying existing statutes — it doesn’t increase requirements or fines,” she said.
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