A bill in a Colorado House panel to boost the fines for
truck drivers who fail to chain up has been sidelined. Lawmakers cited a lack
of safe places for truckers to pull over as a primary reason for not advancing
Another bill to restrict the use of eminent domain by
private road builders and the Colorado Department of Transportation met the
Existing Colorado law fines truckers $100, plus $13 in
surcharges, for failure to put on snow chains. If an unchained truck results in
a blocked highway the fine jumps to $500, plus $61 in surcharges. Drivers don't
have pointes added to their commercial driver's licenses for the offense.
Sponsored by Rep. Dan Gibbs, D-Silverthorne, the bill -
HB1229 - would increase the base fine of $100 to $500. And, it would have four
points tacked onto violators' CDLs.
The House Transportation and Energy Committee voted 7-6
against moving the bill forward to the chamber floor. On a separate vote,
lawmakers stopped short of out right killing the bill, which means there's an
outside chance it could be brought back before the session ends in May.
Supporters told lawmakers the steeper penalties are needed
because truckers and their companies simply write off the current fine as "the
cost of doing business." They said the need to address the issue is highlighted
because portions of Interstate 70 had to be closed 15 times in Colorado this
winter because of chainless trucks.
Opponents said failure to comply with the rule can be
attributed to a lack of adequate space on roadways for drivers to install
chains - not to mention the safety concerns. Too few designated chain-up sites
along routes also was cited as a problem for truckers.
Colorado State Patrol Capt. Ron Prater said he has noticed
the state's designated chain areas can't always handle the truck traffic that
uses the I-70 corridor. He said the shortage of spots along the corridor is so
bad that it's not uncommon to see truck drivers pulled off anywhere along the
route to put on or take off their chains, the Summit Daily News reported.
Rep. Dianne Primavera, D-Broomfield, said she switched from
supporting the bill to being in opposition to it after hearing from truckers.
"It seems to me like this is everybody's problem," Primavera
told the Daily News. "To try and say
it's just the truckers' problem, it's hard for me to do at this point in time."
To help alleviate some of the problem, CDOT has pledged $1.2
million to improve chain-up sites and signage to reduce traffic speed near the
Gibbs said he is hopeful the state spending will make his
proposal more palatable to lawmakers when he reintroduces it.
A separate bill that ran into trouble in the transportation
committee would require CDOT to adhere to long-term plans for roads initiated
by metropolitan and regional planning organizations. Neither private companies
nor CDOT could use eminent domain to acquire land for a toll road unless that
road was included in regional road planning
Sponsored by Rep. Marsha Looper, D-Calhan, the bill - HB1068
- also would require that private developers of toll roads first acquire a
minimum of 80 percent of the proposed rights of way before the state could
initiate the use of eminent domain - and only then if the road was included in
long-term regional plans.
At issue is the proposed 210-mile Prairie Falcon Parkway
Expressway, often referred to as the "Super Slab." The three-mile-wide path
would include railroad and utility lines.
- By Keith Goble,
state legislative editor