Colorado House approves truck-like tire chain rules for personal vehicles

By Keith Goble, Land Line state legislative editor | 3/6/2015

An effort halfway through the Colorado statehouse would require all personal vehicles traveling on the mountain corridor of Interstate 70 to carry tire chains or snow tires during certain times of the year.

The state’s chain law now applies to every state and federal highway, including interstates, under certain weather conditions. For noncommercial vehicles, there are two levels of chain law: “chains or adequate snow tires required” or “chains only.”

The House voted 43-21 on Friday, March 6, to advance a bill that would set up a pilot program to require noncommercial vehicles to carry chains, have four-wheel drive or all-wheel drive, or tires with 4/32-inch tread depth while driving on I-70 between Morrison and Dotsero from Nov. 1 to May 15.

Sponsored by Rep. Bob Rankin, R-Carbondale, and Rep. Diane Mitsch Bush, D-Steamboat Springs, HB1173 now moves to the Senate for further consideration.

If signed into law, violators would face the same fine as truck drivers. Motorists could face $100 fines when they are pulled over for traffic infractions along the 126-mile stretch. Incidents that result in lane closures on the affected portion of interstate could result in $500 fines.

Mitsch Bush pointed out during floor discussion on the bill that chain rules already apply to personal vehicles.

“(The bill) brings our chain law into conformance with what’s already required of truckers,” she said.

Rankin addressed concerns of critics that say the bill infringes on people’s rights.

“We think it’s too much government. We think we’re restricting people’s rights to drive,” he said during floor discussion. “You don’t have a right to imperil other people. That’s what is going on along I-70.”

He said the changes would also benefit tourism and commerce.

The Colorado Department of Transportation would be responsible for notifying the public of the new requirements via signage, as well as “other appropriate means.”

The bill states if the pilot program is determined to be a success, “the general assembly intends to expand the program with future legislation to cover other problematic highways.”

A separate House-approved bill would revise the state’s rule on heavy-duty vehicle emissions testing.

Colorado law now exempts trucks with gross vehicle weight in excess of 26,000 pounds from emissions testing until the fourth model year.

HB1134 would extend the exemption to six years for 2014 and newer model years.

A fiscal note attached to the bill estimates the change would result in the loss of $3,730 yearly for the state.

Advocates say the change would save truck owners money and entice them to buy newer models.

The bill is in the Senate Transportation Committee.

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