DENVER (AP) – After an especially bad day of traffic congestion on Colorado’s mountainous stretch of Interstate 70 last year, state transportation officials issued a scathing reminder to drivers of the need to have properly equipped tires for snowy conditions.
On that treacherous February day, the Colorado Department of Transportation said officials had to help 22 vehicles that had spun out of control. Nineteen had bald tires, including 18 cars belonging to Colorado residents who should’ve known to have their vehicles better equipped for the conditions.
“The numbers say it all,” CDOT said in a press release at the time, urging drivers to have snow tires or chains on their cars.
On Wednesday, Gov. John Hickenlooper signed a bill directing lawmakers to study whether to require non-commercial vehicles to have snow tires or chains during the spring and winter months on a nearly 130-mile stretch of Interstate 70 between Morrison, near Denver, and Dotsero to the west, near Glenwood Springs.
The goal is to find a solution to traffic congestion from accidents on a heavily traveled route to area mountain resorts.
The bill started out as a snow-tire requirement, mandating non-commercial vehicles without four-wheel drive to have tires with snow-appropriate tread or else carry chains. But stiff opposition from some led to the measure being watered down to a study.
“It was the most misunderstood bill of the year,” said Republican Rep. Bob Rankin, one of the bill’s sponsors. He said there were misguided fears about checkpoints to analyze people’s tires, when in fact, people would only face tickets and fines if they caused an accident and didn’t have chains or proper tires.
The chief critic of the requirement – Republican Sen. Randy Baumgardner – didn’t explain his opposition when reached this week for comment.
“You like the bill or you don’t,” said Baumgardner, who leads the Senate Transportation Committee. He declined to elaborate.
Rankin said studying the matter will bolster lawmakers’ arguments next year.
No states have mandatory rules for snow tires, but some have chain requirements during bad weather conditions, said Dan Zielinski, spokesman for the Rubber Manufacturers Association.
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.
– By Ivan Moreno, AP Writer
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