Truckers will get room to put chains on
Vail, CO Colorado
DENVER ” An unprecedented chunk of money will be spent to expand the areas along Interstate 70 where truckers put on their snow chains.
The state’s transportation agency Monday set aside $1.2 million for safety projects during an hour-and-a-half meeting organized by Rep. Dan Gibbs, Eagle County’s state representative, whose bill to raise fines and penalties for truck drivers who don’t abide by the chain died last week in the state House.
It’s the most money the state has ever allotted to tackle the issue, Gibbs said.
“I feel very positive about this,” Gibbs said. “This is not a slam dunk yet, but I am very persistent and I know this is very important to the mountain communities, and I’m just working extra hard to keep this bill alive.”
The ski industry and many mountain towns had supported Gibbs’ bill but truckers said the roadsides where they can put on their chains before heading up Vail Pass or toward the Eisenhower Tunnel are dangerous and crowded.
A portion of the money will be used to install electronic signs to reduce the speed limit around chain-up areas so drivers slow down while truckers are putting on chains.
“For example, if it’s 60 miles per hour, we might drop it to 50 in those areas,” said Jeff Kullman, regional director for the Colorado Department of Transportation.
The state will install additional signs along I-70 with lights that flash when the chain law is in effect so truck drivers have plenty of notice that they’ll need chains down the road. One truck driver who testified last week against Gibbs’ bill said he’d been ticketed for driving without chains before he’d seen any notification that the law was in effect.
The state also may build new chain-up areas.
Most of the focus will be in the westbound lanes of I-70, which has only one chain area to every three in the eastbound direction, Kullman said.
The projects will all be completed over the summer. The transportation agency also is considering more costly improvements, such as building barriers at chain-up areas and installing lights, he said.
Gibbs hopes the state spending will help push his bill along when he reintroduces it, he said.
The failed version of the bill would have increased the fine for violating the chain law from $100 to $500 and tack on 4 points to a trucker’s license.
The Colorado State Patrol gave out more than 300 tickets last year to truckers who didn’t put chains on when required, Gibbs said.