State Senator Randy Baumgardner continues to dismiss traction bill |

State Senator Randy Baumgardner continues to dismiss traction bill

No one was injured in this accident in February 2016 that closed westbound Interstate 70 for several hours about 5 miles west of Vail Pass Summit, which is the No. 1 spot for I-70 closures, a PI data analysis showed.The I-70 Traction Bill that was killed in the senate this year would have required all passenger vehicles to have appropriate tires or chains during inclement weather.
Vail Fire Department |

For the last couple of years, Colorado state representatives have pushed for a stronger traction law on Interstate 70, only for the bill to die in the State Senate at the hands of Randy Baumgardner, a Republican senator who represents Summit, among others counties. Much to the consternation of local leaders, Baumgardner has argued the bill is redundant and ineffective.

He argues that the bill was just a duplicate of statutes that were already in place.

“To pass a bill that says, ‘Hey, look, this is already in statute everybody,’ it costs the taxpayers money and there was really no reason to move that bill forward,” Baumgardner said.

The I-70 Traction Bill, or HB 16-1039, was first pushed by representatives in 2015, as a way to strengthen a statute already in place. Under the current statutes, the Colorado Department of Transportation (CDOT) has to trigger a code that requires drivers to have appropriate tires or traction equipment. The traction bill, on the other hand, would require motorists to have the appropriate gear between mile markers 133 and 259 whenever there are snowy or icy conditions.

One of the arguments against the way the law is currently enforced is that uninformed drivers may have already caused traffic delays or accidents by the time the code has been enacted. Another concern is that drivers may not be aware whether or not the codes have been put into effect.

For some, like Summit County Commissioner Dan Gibbs, the traction bill is just common sense.

“(The bill) would just make it crystal clear that we wouldn’t have to wait for these various different codes that have been put in place, that you need to have adequate tires during inclement weather, period,” Gibbs said.

Gibbs previously served in both the state House and Senate. While in office, he served as the chair of the transportation committee. He said that when he worked on a chain law for truckers in 2007, it became clear that something needed to be put into place for passenger vehicles as well.

He currently serves as the chair of the I-70 Coalition and added that the traction bill received strong support from both law enforcement and CDOT.

Dwight Henninger, chief of Vail Police, said that the bill would have allowed law enforcement to be more proactive with inclement weather instead of reacting to a crash that has already happened. He said that before the chain law was put into place for commercial vehicles, they had 70 percent compliance. Now he said compliance is more than 90 percent in commercial vehicles. He thinks the I-70 Traction Bill would have had a similar effect. He added that people who don’t know, or don’t care about traction laws, have a heavy impact on all drivers.

“It’s an unfair burden for those of us doing the right thing,” Henninger said.

Despite a large amount of support, the bill was unsuccessful. During the 2015 legislative session, an amendment introduced by Baumgardner, reduced the bill to a study. Baumgardner said that when the bill was brought into the Legislature the first time, the transportation committee took it to the Transportation Legislation Review Committee (TLRC) to examine.

But, in 2016, the TLRC recommended that the bill be brought back to Legislature. At that point, Rep. Diane Mitch Busch D-Steamboat, and Rep. Bob Rankin R-Carbondale decided to try again. After passing the House in March of 2016, the bill was again killed in the Senate.

Both Gibbs and Henninger said they were disappointed in the failure of the bill and added that the bill saw support from every avenue until it got to the transportation committee.

“There’s been real frustration by many people in the mountain communities, that here we have a state senator that is the chair of the transportation committee that is repeatedly voting no on this proposal, when we’re scratching our heads thinking, ‘Who is he listening to and who is he representing?’” Gibbs said. “As a former legislator myself these are the bills that you dream of frankly, that come to you with consensus, that there’s no opposition for.”

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