In an effort to reduce weather-related traffic accidents in the Columbia River Gorge, the Oregon Department of Transportation and Oregon State Police are instituting a chain/traction tire enforcement program aimed at commercial trucks.
In the past, ODOT has used permanent variable message signs on both ends of the Gorge to alert truck drivers of chain requirements. While those large signs will remain active during adverse weather, additional portable reader boards will instruct big rigs to stop at checkpoints located westbound at Exit 76 near Rowena and eastbound at the Cascade Locks Port of Entry.
"The Gorge typically experiences several periods of inclement weather this time of year," said OSP Sgt. Patrick Shortt of The Dalles Patrol Office. "The result of which is a dramatic increase in the number of crashes involving commercial motor vehicles."
Shortt said historically, law enforcement officers responded to chain requirements in a reactive manner by enforcing chain use on an individual basis or by citing unequipped trucks involved in a crash. He said the purpose of the new plan is to increase the early use of tire chains by commercial motor vehicles by actively enforcing the law when traction is required.
ODOT and OSP used a similar checkpoint system at the east end of the Gorge in December as a pilot project, according to Sam Wilkens, district manager in The Dalles. The success of that effort prompted both agencies to expand the program.
For more information on Oregon's chain laws, go to www.odot.state.or.us/region2public/weather/tires.htm.