The (Spokane) Spokesman Review
OLYMPIA Sen. Shirley Winsley is no stranger to severe
winter driving. The Pierce County, Wash., Republican grew
up in Minnesota, within 20 miles of two cities that routinely
turn up in nightly weather reports as the coldest places in
"If you want to talk to me about snow and ice and cold
weather, I can talk to you," she told a Senate committee
Wednesday. "I'm not the city slicker that some of you
might think I am, telling Eastern Washington how to live its
Winsley, along with the state Department of Transportation,
wants to ban studded tires. The tires destroy the roads, they
"This has become a war between Eastern Washington lawmakers
and Western Washington lawmakers, and I think that's pretty
silly," said Winsley.
Only 10 percent of those who live on the state's West Side
use studded tires, she said. East of the Cascades, that number
rises to 32 percent.
"They like them, they can't live without them,"
she said. "But those of us in Western Washington, we
deal with a lot of water over here."
And when it rains, the ruts from studded tires turn into
little canals, causing cars to hydroplane and trucks to hurl
up waves of spray.
The $15 surcharge was proposed by Sen. Jim Horn, a Republican
from the Seattle suburb of Mercer Island. He says it's an
effort at a compromise.
"It seems like the argument rages on for banning, so
I suggested a fee," he said. "These studs are like
little hammers chipping away at the pavement."
Both bills drew fire this week from tire dealers, snowmobilers
and senior citizens.
"Our seniors have been very comfortable with studded
tires," said Bruce Reeves, with the Senior Citizens Lobby.
"They depend on them, and think they work."
Seniors don't want to use tire chains because they're hard
to put on, he said. And they're not going to like the prospect
of a $60 surcharge for four tires, Reeves said.
Howard Briggs, a Cle Elum, Wash., man who's a member of the
state snowmobile association, said Puget Sound lawmakers don't
realize what it's like to live through real winters.
"We've got two different states, basically, when it
comes to weather and road conditions," he told lawmakers.
"We can have ice and snow patches on roadways for months.
You guys over here have snow for a week and it's a big deal."
The Department of Transportation estimates that studded tires
cause $10 million worth of damage to state highways each year.
The worst parts are in Spokane and along Western Washington's
Interstate 5 corridor. In fact, Spokane features prominently
in a four-page anti-studded-tire brochure published by DOT.
Interestingly, a recent survey of Spokane Valley residents
by Sen. Bob McCaslin suggests that a large majority support
either banning, taxing, or requiring a yearly permit for studded
tires. McCaslin, using his lawmaker's mailing privileges,
sent a survey to 21,000 homes. Of the 1,343 that came back,
here's how they felt:
Winsley on Wednesday floated the idea of what she called
a common-sense alternative to outlawing the tires: just ban
them in Western Washington. If people have special circumstances,
like commuting over a pass, she said, they could get a permit.
"And the residents of Eastern Washington can continue
to use their studs. Just stay over there," she said.
If they visit Western Washington, they, too, could get some
sort of permit, she said.
As for weekend skiers and snowmobilers in Puget Sound, she
said, "they probably could use chains like we used to
do in Minnesota and do very well."