SALEM, Ore.—Oregon's legislature will consider four different proposals to restrict the use of studded tires and recover the cost of damage that critics say they cause the state's roads. If any of these proposals are enacted, motorists could end up paying almost twice as much as they do now to use studded tires, which are permitted in Oregon between Nov. 1 and April 1.
The Oregon Department of Transportation (ODOT) has proposed that a $30 fee be ``imposed on the retail sale of each new studded tire or on the installation of studs on a tire.''
Oregon tire dealers would collect the fee at the time of purchase, keep 5 percent and turn the remaining money over to the state.
Two of the bills introduced would require motorists to buy an annual permit, costing either $40 or as much as $100, to use studded tires.
Another bill would outlaw studded tires except for specific uses—school buses, emergency vehicles or construction equipment, for example.
``We spend about $11 million a year repairing damage due to studded tire wear,'' said Doug Tindall, state maintenance engineer for ODOT. Oregon tire dealers sell about 360,000 studded tires each year, and the $30 fee on each tire sold would cover the annual cost of road damage ODOT attributes to studded tires, he said.
Oregon's legislature holds regular sessions in alternate years. Mr. Tindall said that a similar proposal was part of a revenue bill that passed the Oregon House of Representatives in 1997, but died in the state Senate.
``Some kind of tax or fee at the point of sale is something we don't want to see,'' said Richard Nordness, executive director of the Northwest Tire Dealers Association. Because Oregon doesn't have a sales tax, tire dealers would spend more time explaining this fee than selling tires to customers, Mr. Nordness said.
ODOT's fee proposal ``is basically a ban,'' because the owner of a front-wheel-drive or four-wheel-drive vehicle would have to spend an additional $120—about the cost of a set of economy tires for a compact car, Mr. Nordness said.
``They would drive people across the border to buy tires,'' he said.
Portland, the state's largest city, is located on the border with Washington, which does not levy fees to use studded tires.
The NWTDA is supporting a bill in Washington's legislature which would set a maximum weight for permitted studs. If this proposal is passed, the limits in Washington would match those in Oregon, Mr. Nordness said.
However, some experts say tires marked with a new Rubber Manufacturers Association-approved symbol of a snowflake within a mountain eventually may replace studded tires because they meet severe snow conditions.
Until the new RMA designation appears on tires, ODOT will give dealers window stickers for customers. This sticker will alert law enforcement officers that a car is equipped with ODOT-approved tires.