So who pays for all these studs?
Thursday, February 14, 2013
Darn. Wish I had those studded tires.
I vividly remember the last time that thought passed through my mind. I was in the midst of a pair of 360s on an ice-coated Interstate 90 just west of Spokane in December, 1975. My heavy rear-wheel-drive sedan with balding tires didn’t have enough traction to steer, much less stop. Spinning down the highway clarifies the mind, and make you realize just how fallible and insecure a creature you really are. I survived after being winched out of the ditch in the median, inched into town and laid out the cash for two studded retreads. Thus I began my career of chewing up pavement in anticipation of the day, of the hour or the minute, when I might meet those same road conditions again.
I’m not sure I ever have, at least not that bad. Years of jaywalking across Chelan Avenue, hearing the clickety-click of studs on asphalt and seeing close up the damage they do, have convinced me that studded tires are not worth it. They won’t help at all 99.9 percent of the time, and I seem to survive those 0.1-percent moments when metal spikes might do me some good, none the worse for it other than a white knuckle or two.
The point to remember is we spend an awful lot of money on pavement, around $90 million every year. And once it is fresh and smooth we set out to grind grooves in it with metal-spiked tires we don’t really need. The Department of Transportation has estimates of damage from studded tires as high as $27.3 million a year. Studded tires chew up tiny bits of tarmac and fling them into the air. It doesn’t take long after the fresh pavement is down before you start to see the chips and flecks in the wheel tracks. Then chips and flecks turn to divots and divots turn to grooves and roads have to be repaved prematurely at great expense. Then we complain about paying for them.
There is no ban-studded-tires movement in the state that I know of. There is one bill in the Legislature now that would make a modest attempt at having the owners of studded tires pay for a small part of the damage they do. Senate Bill 5583, sponsored by Sen. Don Benton, R-Vancouver, would require users of studded tires to purchase a $75 permit each year, and display an I-paid sticker on their license plate. Money raised would go to maintain highways.
The Senate Transportation Committee held a hearing on the measure Wednesday, and it was not enthusiastically received. The Washington Retail Association, the Northwest Tire Dealers Association and the Association of Washington Business said it’s a matter of safety. Senior citizens especially rely on studded tires and can’t manage chains. And by the way, a new $75 annual stud tax is way too much.
Any tax is too big when you have to pay it, but this one wouldn’t raise that much relative to the damage done. The estimate is $5.2 million a year.
This bill has a doomed feeling about it. Legislators have most often shown a reluctance to confront studded tire constituents. It’s a slipper slope situation. But at least attempts like this point out that the people who uses studded tires pay more for the damage they do than all the rest of us who don’t. The DOT guesses that 25 percent of drivers in Eastern Washington use studded tires. Studies show most don’t really need them, and that they have superior traction to modern studless snow tires only on relatively rare occasions. But we keep grinding away. It is not unreasonable to ask for a small bit of compensation.
Tracy Warner’s column appears Thursdays and Fridays. He can be reached at email@example.com or 665-1163.
MORE LIKE THIS
Wednesday, May 22
WVC Hepcats Swing Dance Classes
Wenatchee Valley Senior Activity Center, 7 p.m.
Thursday, May 23
BNI Better Business Boosters
Rivertop Bar & Grill, 201 N. Wenatchee Ave., 7:30 a.m.
Thursday, May 23
BNI High Noon Achievers
Red Lion Hotel, noon
Thursday, May 23
S.T.Y.L.E. Boot Camp!
Wenatchee Valley Mall, space A-4, 6:30 p.m.