Mar 6, 2024 - News

Colorado reverses plan for left-lane ban for trucks on I-70

Traffic eastbound on I-70 near Silverthorne in 2019. Photo: Helen H. Richardson/Denver Post via Getty Images

Traffic eastbound on I-70 near Silverthorne in 2019. Photo: Helen H. Richardson/The Denver Post via Getty Images

Don't expect winter travel through the Colorado mountains to drastically improve any time soon.

The latest: Colorado lawmakers reversed course on a proposal to require tractor-trailers to carry chains on more roads and prohibit them from using the left passing lane on Interstate 70 between Morrison and Glenwood Springs.

Between the lines: The legislation now codifies existing left-lane restrictions at four choke points on I-70, including the Eisenhower Tunnel and Vail Pass, instead of extending them throughout the mountain corridor. It also would only apply to trucks weighing 16,000 pounds or more.

  • The chain requirement would expand to U.S. highways west of Morrison but not apply to Interstate 25 or state roads, as originally written.

Why it matters: The amendments approved Wednesday by a Senate panel eased opposition to the bill but won't ease traffic congestion as much as hoped.

What they're saying: "We wanted to ensure that we were solving the problem we were trying to solve but not being overly burdensome," state Sen. Dylan Roberts (D-Frisco), the bill's sponsor, told Axios.

The big picture: I-70 is an economic engine in Colorado for commerce and tourism, but winter weather and stalled trucks often lead to hours-long delays and closures.

  • For every hour the road is closed, it causes a $2 million impact, Roberts said.
  • Commercial trucks accounted for 7% of the interstate traffic but 52% of the crashes from 2017-2022, according to state highway data.

The other side: Truckers considered the legislation an assault on their business, and vociferously opposed the new requirements in both versions of the bill. State law already required trucks to carry chains while driving on I-70 through the mountains.

  • "If we spent a little more time enforcing the laws we have in place … I think that would be a much better way," David White with JFW Trucking told lawmakers at a hearing.

The bottom line: Even with the changes, and support from mountain communities, the legislation's future remains uncertain.

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