DENVER (AP) – A bill to require all motorists to use snow tires or chains during snowy months on Colorado’s major mountain highway has passed its toughest test in the state Legislature.

The measure cleared the Senate Transportation Committee 5-0 – but not before the committee chairman and other Republicans on the committee expressed doubts about how effective the requirement would be in improving jammed Interstate 70.

“The largest problem here is volume,” not drivers with improper tires, said Sen. Ray Scott, R-Grand Junction.

And the head of the committee – Sen. Randy Baumgardner – warned he may try to change the bill when it gets to the Senate floor.

“This piece of legislation may be a step to help, (but) I don’t think it’s the end-all, be-all,” said Baumgardner, R-Hot Sulphur Springs.

(credit: CBS)

(credit: CBS)

Senators did change the bill to say the requirement would be in effect when designated by state transportation officials, instead of November through May.

The measure has already passed the House.

Commercial vehicles like trailers are already under strict chain rules during winter and early spring.

The requirement has the backing of Colorado’s Department of Transportation and State Patrol, as well as commercial trucking groups and Colorado’s ski resorts.

“Accidents cost mountain communities hundreds of thousands an hour,” said Patrick Byrne, lobbyist for Colorado Ski Country USA.

If signed into law, the bill would require drivers to carry tire chains unless they have four-wheel drive and all-season tires.

Violators could be charged $132, with a possible $500 enhanced penalty if their chain violation results in the closure of a travel lane in one or both directions. The requirement would be in effect from Morrison in the east to Dotsero in the west, a stretch of about 125 miles.

“It’s a shared responsibility,” said Greg Fulton, president of the Colorado Motor Carriers Association, which represents commercial truckers.

Fulton argued that motorists with improper snow tires damage the economy not just by blocking skiers trying to get to mountain resorts, but by blocking the shipment of goods on one of the nation’s major east-west thoroughfares.

“The cost is too great not to act,” Fulton said.

LINK: House Bill 1173

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