Schwartz, Curry crafting ‘Roadkill Bill’ to slow drivers in wildlife-crossing zones

A pair of Western Slope lawmakers wants drivers to slow down dramatically on roads and highways bisecting critical wildlife habitat, promising to introduce a piece of legislation this session that will no doubt become known as the “Roadkill Bill.”

State Sen. Gail Schwartz, D-Snowmass Village, and the newly independent state Rep. Kathleen Curry are reportedly fine-tuning a bill that would compel drivers to slow down to 55 mph on stretches currently posted at 65 or 75 mph. Fines would then be doubled for speeding in those areas, according to the Aspen Times.

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Scenic Highway 82 from Glenwood Springs to Aspen is known as “Killer 82” for the frequency of accidents along its many curves and undulations, but the nickname is as much a function of fauna fatality as it is the road’s deadliness for humans. Schwartz told the Times it’s just common sense to create wildlife crossing zones and slow drivers down on those stretches around the state. A similar bill passed the House but never made it out of committee in the Senate in 2005.

Interstate 70, the main east-west highway across Colorado’s Western Slope, has been dubbed the “Berlin Wall” for wildlife because it bisects so much critical habitat for some of the nation’s largest deer and elk herds, as well as moose, bears, coyotes, lynx and mountain lions. CDOT has installed miles of wildlife fencing in recent years, but plans for a wildlife overpass near Vail Pass continue to run into financial hurdles.

In a lengthier interview with the Aspen Times over the weekend, Schwartz, who faces a tough reelection challenge this year, outlined a number of other bills she hopes to see passed this session:

• Expand the enabling legislation for Energy Smart Programs in Colorado. That legislation allowed Pitkin County voters to pass a program in November under which homeowners may voluntarily tap into a low-interest loan pool to make energy efficiency improvements or install renewable energy projects. Among other additions, Schwartz wants to add the ability for multi-jurisdictional bonding opportunities to create the pool for the loans.

• Create a Clean Energy Development Authority to spur development of new transmission for renewable projects.

• Clarify the development process for geothermal energy and protect property rights.

In health care, her legislation will:

• Prohibit gender consideration in setting rates for individual health insurance policies.

• Add optional services for Medicaid recipients for screening, brief intervention and referral for treatment of alcohol and substance abuse.

A consumer protection bill will be designed to protect elderly and at-risk adults from financial abuse.

Schwartz also wants to tweak a bill she carried last year, which increased the cost of vehicle registration to raise funds for replacing or repairing crumbling bridges and other infrastructure. The bill will add flexibility to vehicle registration late fees.

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