Oregon Studded Tire Bills Scheduled for Hearing

March 5, 2013

A state House committee will consider three bills that could add fees for Oregon drivers if they want to use studded tires on their vehicles.

Annual damage to state roads from the metal cleats is estimated at upward of $40 million.

“There are people who think we should ban studded tires and people who love them,” said Rep. Mitch Greenlick, D-Portland. “It just seems fair and appropriate that those who use them should pay for the damage they cause.”

Greenlick’s House Bill 2278 would set a fee of $10 per tire.

He also has proposed House Bill 2277, which would require a permit to use studded tires. Cost of the permit would be determined by dividing the estimated cost of road damage by the number of vehicles with studded tires.

Rep. Brad Witt, D-Clatskanie, proposed House Bill 2397, which would set an unspecified fee for using studded tires.

The House Transportation Committee will hear the measures Wednesday. Greenlick acknowledged their prospects were uncertain.

“I haven’t counted votes,” Greenlick told the Oregonian. It’s notable, he said, that the committee is hearing the bills.

Studs are more effective than all-weather tires on icy roads, said Dave Thompson, a spokesman for the Oregon Department of Transportation, but less effective on packed snow. Research indicates the metal prongs reduce traction between the road and the tire, Thompson said.

Tire chains beat both on snow and ice, he said. Also, companies are producing new types of tires that perform as well or better than studs and do less damage, he said.

The department in 2000 came up with the annual studded tire damage estimate of $40 million to $50 million.

Transportation Committee Rep. Cliff Bentz, R-Ontario, said he has four cars, all with studded tires. He crosses six mountain passes to reach Salem from eastern Oregon.

“For my folks over there, the studded tire is viewed as essential to safety,” Bentz said. “It’s going to be awhile before people change their minds on that.”

People have invested heavily in studded tires and would need to be persuaded that new all-weather tires are safer.

“The debate is going to be whether the safety created by using studded tires outweighs the damage they create,” he said.

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