House passes winter tire bill
DENVER — A bill requiring adequate tires or chains in bad weather cleared Colorado’s House of Representatives this week and is headed for the state Senate.
The bill, co-sponsored by Reps. Bob Rankin, R-Carbondale, and Diane Mitsch Bush, D-Steamboat Springs, would require that motorists have adequate tires, chains or other traction devices when the weather gets bad between Oct. 1 and May 15, between Dotsero and Morrison on Interstate 70.
The bill, which passed the House last year but was diluted to a study in the Senate, is designed to reduce road closures and delays on the mountain corridor of I-70.
“This bill is about economic competitiveness and especially about public safety,” Mitsch Bush on the House floor.
HB16-1039 cleared the House on Tuesday afternoon with a 46-18 vote, with support from 13 House Republicans. It now heads for the state Senate, where one of its sponsors will be Sen. Kerry Donovan, D-Vail.
Every year, the mountain corridor shuts down repeatedly because drivers with inadequate equipment spin out or lose traction on snow or ice-covered lanes, Mitsch Bush said.
“Blocked traffic on I-70 is more than just an inconvenience — it’s a public safety issue that impedes ambulances and other emergency vehicles, and puts other drivers at greater risk of an accident,” she said.
Colorado sustains an estimated $800,000 economic loss for every hour that the road is closed, Mitsch Bush said.
“That gives stuck-in-traffic visitors plenty of time to think about heading to some other state for their next ski vacation and victimizing adequately equipped Colorado drivers who are commuting to their jobs,” Mitsch Bush told the House. “If they’re stuck in that traffic even for two hours, those two hours of lost wages mean all the world to them and their family, and they could well get fired.”
Truckers have been ordered to carry chains since 2009. Starting the next winter, the number of 18-wheeler related accidents and closures went down. At the same time, accidents and closures from automobiles went up, Mitsch Bush said.
Under Colorado’s current traction law, Code 15, the Colorado Department of Transportation and the Colorado State Patrol determine when to invoke restrictions on automobiles. However, under that law, there’s about an hour lag in which all sorts of weather-related awfulness could happen.
“It can be very confusing. This bill takes guessing out of the equation,” Mitsch Bush said. “This lets us communicate with people before the problems start.”
She said under the proposal, CDOT can put up signs saying adequate tires or chains are required on automobiles.
The Colorado Department of Transportation implemented Code 15 145 times over the last three months, between Oct. 22 and Jan. 20, said Bob Wilson, CDOT communications manager.
Of those, 129 were along I-70, 14 on U.S. 6 over Loveland Pass and two on U.S. 40 over Berthoud Pass.
When the traction law is in effect, all passenger vehicles must have either snow or mud and snow tires, a four-wheel/all-wheel drive vehicle, or use chains or an alternative traction device. All tires, regardless of the vehicle, must have tread a minimum one-eighth inch deep.
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Construction for the South Midland project is on schedule, though crews will continue to work on weekends to keep the course.