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Idaho bill would require semis to use chains

Truckers make their way over Fourth of July Pass in North Idaho on Wednesday. Idaho lawmakers are pushing a bill that would allow state and local officials to make drivers put chains on when going over mountain passes. 
 (Kathy Plonka / The Spokesman-Review)
Truckers make their way over Fourth of July Pass in North Idaho on Wednesday. Idaho lawmakers are pushing a bill that would allow state and local officials to make drivers put chains on when going over mountain passes. (Kathy Plonka / The Spokesman-Review)

It’s only been 17 years since the Idaho State Police first asked, but this week lawmakers will again push for a law that would give officials the authority to require long-haul truckers to use chains on three mountain passes.

More than 20 times this winter, state troopers and Shoshone County Sheriff’s deputies have shut down one or both westbound lanes of Interstate 90 near Lookout Pass after tractor trailers jackknifed or rolled in icy conditions.

Last week, troopers had to route traffic around two semis stuck in a snow berm on Fourth of July Pass near Coeur d’Alene.

“The ISP does not have the manpower to work these passes,” said state Rep. Mary Lou Shepherd, D-Wallace, who is co-sponsoring the bill. “It’s been something that has been necessary to be put into effect for quite a while.”

It’s been six years since the ISP tried to get the law passed. And, it’s overdue, according to ISP Capt. Clark Rollins.

“It’s killing my office and the sheriff’s office going to these jackknifes, which are daily,” Rollins said. “There are times when we’ve had to completely shut down Interstate 90, which affects local commerce.”

Idaho is the only state in the region that doesn’t require truckers to put on chains when conditions merit the extra traction, Rollins said.

“Montana, Washington and Oregon all have chain-up laws,” he said.

State Sen. Joyce Broadsword, R-Sagle, said the bill is scheduled to be presented to the Senate Transportation Committee on Tuesday.

“I’m pretty sure we can get it through the committee, at least for the print hearing,” she said. “It will be a huge benefit for the Silver Valley and Lolo pass area.”

As currently written, the legislation would allow ISP, the Idaho Transportation Department and local law enforcement to require truckers to use chains or traction devices on certain commercial vehicles traveling over Lookout, Fourth of July and Lolo passes.

Only those three mountain passes were included because they all currently have enough room for truckers to put chains in place. However, log trucks, earth movers, chip trucks or any trucks hauling agriculture goods would be exempt.

“That is the only way we’ll get the bill through,” Shepherd said. Logging and agriculture advocates “just didn’t want to have to put on chains.”

Rollins said he can live with the exemption.

“I don’t think we’ve had problem one on Lookout or Fourth of July with those,” he said. “Mainly our problems come from long-haul trucking.”

Broadsword said Shoshone County residents and business owners have no other way to get in or out of the Silver Valley.

“If you have someone who has a medical emergency, there is a real possibility that they may not make it” if the interstate is blocked, she said. “And it’s a huge detriment to commerce. If the roads are closed … it hurts your business.”

Plow time

The city of Spokane’s plowing effort will finally reach Browne’s Addition this week, following snowstorms on Jan. 26, 27 and Tuesday that buried city streets.

Because so few Browne’s Addition residents have driveways, the city reminds owners to move parked vehicles so that plows can remove the snow.

Beginning at 9 a.m. Tuesday, north/south streets will be plowed. Crews will give attention at 9 a.m. Wednesday to the east/west avenues, city streets spokeswoman Ann Deasy said in a news release.

For more information, call the Snow Removal Hotline at 456-2666 or go to www.spokanestreet to view the schedule and residential plow map.

In addition to avoiding plows, the city has two obstructions of note.

Post Street from Riverside Avenue has no parking on the west side of the street until the end of this year, Deasy said. The closure is needed during renovation of the Grant Building.

And, Spokane Falls Boulevard east of Riverpoint Boulevard has been reduced to one lane to allow for construction on a new nursing school.

Belting offenders

The Washington State Patrol last Friday began its latest “Click it or Ticket” campaign, which will focus on drivers who don’t use seat belts at night. The nighttime emphasis patrols will continue through the end of this month.

“The nighttime death rate is four times what it is during the day – in part because many people think law enforcement can’t see unbuckled motorists at night,” said Kate Carlsen, spokeswoman for the Washington Traffic Safety Commission.

During the enforcement campaign in October, troopers in Spokane County wrote 289 seat-belt violations. Statewide during that campaign, law enforcement wrote 3,942 seat-belt and car-seat violations, Carlsen said in a press release.

Since the “Click it or Ticket” campaign began in 2002, seat belt use has increased to more than 96 percent, giving Washington one of the highest use rates in the nation, Carlsen said.


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