Ore. studded tire debate rolls back into view

Some say safety should have no price, others say studs damage roads

Studded tires roll back in focus in C. Oregon

BEND, Ore. - That unmistakable crackle of studded tires rolling over pavement -- that's the sound of safety for some drivers.

"I had a head-on collision because I skidded on the ice," a Bend man said Tuesday."So I immediately went and got studded tires, so I really like having them."

For others, it's the sound of decaying roads and money eaten away.

"They don't seem to care -- they don't take them off when they're supposed to. They ought to pay for some of the roads that they do destroy," said another Bend man.

Oregon lawmakers are considering making those who drive with studs pay the price.

"We get between $40 million and $50 million of damage on our highway system because of studded tires," said Oregon Department of Transportation spokesman Peter Murphy.  "There's just no way to keep up with the damage."

Legislators are looking at a few bills. One might ask drivers to pay a fee per tire. Another would require drivers to get a permit to drive with studs.

The debate is expected to make its way to the House Transportation Committee on Wednesday.

Such a fee or other requirement is something Goodyear Auto Care manager Ezra Brumbach said wouldn't be fair to his customers.

"Put people in that situation that money is already tight, and it's hard enough to pay bills and put food on the table," Brumbach said.  "And now they have to pay an extra tax on studded tires that they already purchased, or want to purchase because of safety."

Murphy said Highway 97 from Bend to Redmond takes a brutal beating every year. ODOT believes the stretch sees the most studded-tire drivers in the state.

"That highway was designed to last 15 years. What it looks like is that we're going to get 10 out of it," he said.  "We attribute that to studded tires."

Murphy says Central Oregon's snowy and icy winters mean more drivers tearing up roads. But some say our climate is all the reason to keep costs down for drivers --leaving some here in Central Oregon saying it's a slippery slope.

"I know it does tear up the roads, but having used studded snow tires in the past, I know they can be very safe, so I guess I'm kind of torn on the idea," a Bend woman said.

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