Chains aren’t always required on Snoqualmie Pass segment of Interstate 90—but when they are, not putting them in can result in a hefty fine. The law itself isn’t new, but it’s about to see a new level of enforcement this winter as the Washington State Patrol (WSP) gears up for what the Washington State Department of Transportation (WSDOT) is calling “chain-up or pay up.”
The busy pass presents a unique set of challenges, especially during the winter. It’s narrow, and it doesn’t have particularly convenient alternate routes (and none really for those not trying to get all the way to the other side of the mountains). And, according to WSDOT, this isolated mountain pass has 30,000 cars trying to get through it per day.
So when a car does have an accident, the roadway sometimes has to close for hours to get emergency responders or even just a tow truck to the scene, leaving thousands of other travelers stranded. According to WSDOT, more than half of traffic-blocking accidents on the roadway have been caused by vehicles not following chain requirements.
WSP and WSDOT are cracking down on chain requirements this year in hopes of increasing safety and decreasing roadblocks. The patrol will be on the lookout for unchained tires, and violators will get hit with a steep, $500 fine.
Travelers can check the chain-up status on WSDOT’s website, but it could always change en-route (or on the way back), so if you’re driving on the pass it’s safest to keep chains (or chain alternatives, for those who can’t use ‘em) with you.
When in doubt, though—you’re not confident on the ice, you’re not confident in your vehicle, you don’t want to bother with chains, or this just sounds like a pain—there’s always not driving. Bus carriers like Greyhound are totally used to chaining up those giant vehicles, and riding a train through the snow can be kind of magic.