DENVER (AP) – Colorado lawmakers are considering requiring snow tires or chains on noncommercial vehicles at all times during winter and spring months, an attempt reduce accidents and mountain traffic.
The bill goes to the core of what’s a maddening experience for skiers and other travelers to the mountain resorts who get stuck in traffic for hours because of accidents on Interstate 70.
Democratic Rep. Diane Mitsch Bush, the proposal’s sponsor, said road delays and closures “cost, depending on whom you talk to, millions per hour.”
Those economic effects are felt by the delays in the movement of goods and the tourism industry as people become weary of returning to ski resorts, she said.
“So it becomes a very important economic issue,” said Mitsch Bush, a Steamboat Springs lawmaker who represents mountain resorts that depend on tourism.
California and Nevada require tires equipped for winter weather on Interstate 80 on Donner Pass, and Washington and Oregon have the requirement on Snoqualmie Pass, Mitsch Bush said.
The proposal expected to be debated by the full House on Thursday means drivers would, regardless of weather conditions, need to have their tires equipped for snow conditions from Nov. 1 to May 15 or face fines.
That’s a change from current law, which requires noncommercial drivers to have snow tires or chains only under certain weather conditions when transportation officials say the rule is in effect. Commercial vehicles like trailers are already under strict chain rules during the dates the bill seeks to expand to all drivers.
The requirement would apply on a nearly 130-mile stretch of Interstate 70 between Morrison, near Denver, and Dotsero to the west, just east of Glenwood Springs.
Under current law and with the bill, the fines would happen only when a driver is pulled over for a traffic infraction first or causes an accident. It’s a $132 fine for having improperly equipped tires and causing an accident, and a much heftier fine of $656 for an accident that causes a lane closure.
Republican Rep. Jon Becker, who opposed the bill in committee, said the proposal is redundant.
“If you cause an accident, you can already get a ticket,” he said. He also worried the bill could “create bad blood” with Colorado visitors who may not know about the tire requirement.
Mitsch Bush said the lack of consistency in dates when the tire rules are in effect is more problematic. “I think the current situation causes more of a problem with quote unquote bad blood because people aren’t sure what to do,” she said.
– By Ivan Moreno, AP Writer
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