DENVER (AP) – Colorado lawmakers on Tuesday weakened a measure aimed at requiring drivers to use snow tires on mountain roads during winter months.
Senators amended the bill to call for transportation officials to study the question for another year. The proposal now heads back to the House for consideration.
Before the revision, the plan would have required motorists without four-wheel drive to use tires with a tread-depth of 1/8 of an inch or carry chains or cables in times of snowy weather on mountain passes, including Interstate 70.
The study amendment puts the measure in question; House Democrats and Republicans are skeptical of the change.
“I don’t think we need to do a study,” said Rep. Bob Rankin, R-Carbondale. “We know what to do. What are you going to study?”
The proposal had the backing of Colorado’s ski industry, which said improper tires cause costly wrecks and traffic snarls on the state’s main east-west highway.
Commercial truckers also supported the chain requirement, which already applies to them.
The Colorado Department of Transportation and the Colorado State Patrol both were in favor of the plan. The state can already require such tires of private motorists in a “snow emergency,” a declaration made a few times a year in heavy snow.
All-weather tires would have been sufficient to satisfy the bill’s requirements. Violators would have faced fines of about $130 to $600 if they caused an accident.
But Senate Republicans considered the regulation too much for noncommercial drivers.
The main critic said he doubted police would be able to enforce the tire bill. “There’s not enough adequate data acquired to see if those laws are actually being enforced,” said Sen. Randy Baumgardner, R-Hot Sulphur Springs.
Baumgardner earlier amended the bill to say it would apply to all highway mountain passes, not just the mountainous parts of I-70, a change that was likely to reduce support.
Other Republicans questioned how the snow tire requirement would be upheld. “We might as well have a tire police,” said Sen. Tim Neville, R-Littleton, when the bill was debated last week. “This is really a dumb bill and a dumb idea.”
Democrats who supported the bill said the plan remains important.
“I still believe that it is about public safety, about helping people be prepared for driving in winter weather,” said Sen. Nancy Todd, D-Aurora. “We cannot have the amount of closure and delay on I-70.”
– By Kristen Wyatt, AP Writer
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