Colorado left lane restriction clears Senate committee

| Friday, April 23, 2010

A Colorado Senate panel voted Thursday, April 22, to advance a bill that is intended to improve traffic flow along Interstate 70 through the mountains. It would keep slow-moving vehicles to the right on steep grades along the roadway.

As originally written, the bill singled out large trucks traveling on grades of 6 percent or more for at least one mile along I-70. The Senate Transportation Committee voted to amend the bill to apply the lane restriction to all vehicles that cannot stay within 10 mph of the posted speed limit on affected stretches.

Violators would face $19 fines.

Senate Transportation Chairman Dan Gibbs, D-Boulder, told lawmakers it’s not just trucks that can slow traffic in the left lane.

Owner-operator and OOIDA Life Member Jack McComb of Littleton, CO, was very active in communicating his concerns to lawmakers about the bill as originally introduced. In the days leading up to the committee meeting, he contacted each member of the panel.

“I told them I have no problem with asking slow-moving vehicles to use the left lane so that others may pass in a timely manner. It’s not just trucks,” McComb said.

“I drive that corridor daily, and it’s very evident that 90 percent of the slow traffic is not big trucks. It’s the big motor homes and small cars that don’t have the power to go 60 mph up the hill that are out there in that lane. It’s also tourists who are sightseeing and not paying attention. They’re the ones causing a vast majority of the problems.”

Concerns about the bill, which McComb addressed in his correspondence with lawmakers, were included in the bill that emerged from committee. SB196 has been forwarded to the Senate Appropriations Committee before it gets a Senate floor vote.

Exceptions to the lane restriction would be made for exiting or entering the roadway, traffic or weather conditions that require slower travel, and traffic congestion.

The proposed rule change would affect stretches of I-70 like Vail Pass, Georgetown Hill and the Eisenhower Tunnel.

Colorado law already prohibits vehicles from impeding the normal traffic flow. The 2004 law was intended to cut down on road rage and ease traffic woes on state highways by encouraging drivers to use the left lane for passing only.

McComb said it makes a whole lot more sense for the state to simply enforce the rule already in place.

“This is a redundant bill because we already have a law in Colorado about impeding the flow of traffic. The State Patrol needs to enforce the laws that are already on the books instead of passing more laws.”

McComb also took issue with the expense of making travelers aware of the proposed rule. According to a fiscal note for the bill, it would cost the Colorado Department of Transportation $1,000 for each of the 35 new signs in the affected areas.

With the expected increase in state revenue from violators totaling less than $5,000 a year, it would take at least seven years for the department to recoup the $35,000 cost of posting signs.

To view other legislative activities of interest for Colorado, click here.

– By Keith Goble, state legislative editor

Editor’s Note: Please share your thoughts with us about the legislation included in this story. Comments may be sent to statelegislativedesk@ooida.com.