Five states consider speed changes

By Keith Goble, Land Line state legislative editor | Friday, March 17, 2017

Officials in states from Oregon to West Virginia are discussing possible changes to speed limit rules.

The Owner-Operator Independent Drivers Association says roadways are safest when all vehicles are permitted to travel at the same rate of speed.

Oregon
The state Department of Transportation is discussing whether speed differentials are worth continuing.

Oregon law now permits motorists to drive 65 mph on the state’s fastest roadways and limits large trucks to 55 mph.

The Beaver State is one of only seven states to observe speed limit differentials. The other states are California, Idaho, Indiana, Michigan, Montana and Washington.

ODOT is conducting an engineering study on the impacts of increasing truck speeds on interstates. Once the study is complete the review will be submitted to the Transportation Commission with a recommendation.

OOIDA supports efforts to do away with speed differentials.

Mike Matousek, OOIDA’s director of state legislative affairs, says that truckers are firsthand observers of the negative consequences of misguided traffic laws, including differential speed limits.

The Association has communicated to ODOT that OOIDA’s membership and available data suggest that roadways are safest when all vehicles are permitted to travel at the same rate of speed. Matousek adds that differential speed limits create more interactions between cars and trucks, which can lead to an increase in the number and severity of accidents.

“In Oregon, establishing uniform speed limits – presumably through a slight increase in speed limits for commercial trucks – would simply allow commercial trucks to flow with traffic, get to their destination quicker, and decrease the amount of trucks on the road,” Matousek said. “All of this can be accomplished without compromising safety.”

Truckers interested in providing comments on the issue can email them to ODOT.

Also in Oregon are two bills that would raise speeds along stretches of two highways. HB2489 would revise speeds along a portion of U.S. 97.

Cars now are permitted to travel 65 mph while trucks can go 60 mph on U.S. 97 from its intersection with U.S. 197 to the California line. Cars and trucks are limited to 55 mph elsewhere on the highway.

The bill would extend the faster speeds from the intersection with U.S. 197 to the Washington line.

HB3339 would increase speed limits on state Route 138 between Roseburg and Glide.

All users now can drive 55 mph on the section of highway.

The bill would raise the speed limit for motorists to 65 mph and raise truck speeds to 60 mph along the nearly 17-mile stretch of roadway in southwest Oregon.

Arkansas
The state’s House voted unanimously on Thursday, March 16, to advance a bill to permit faster travel – and a return of speed limit differentials.

Since 2015, all vehicles traveling on Arkansas highways have been permitted to travel at 70 mph.

HB2057 would authorize 75-mph travel for car drivers and 70-mph travel for trucks on interstates. Other highways would be posted at 65 mph for all vehicles – up from 60 mph.

In 2015, Arkansas adopted uniform speeds after 19 years of speed differentials on state highways.

The Arkansas Highway Commission approved an order at that time abandoning the 65-mph speed rule for trucks on rural stretches of interstates.

Research has shown that a differential speed limit is not effective for the efficient flow of traffic, according to the order.

Danny Straessle, spokesman with the Arkansas Highway and Transportation Department, said at the time the agency was noticing a lot of problems with congestion along Interstate 40 in east Arkansas.

“In some instances (the speed differential) actually delays traffic or causes congestion,” Straessle told Land Line. “It was a matter of ‘Are we really accomplishing anything with a differential speed limit? Are we hurting the situation more than we are helping?’ So the commission made the decision to just go ahead and do away with the differential.”

The bill now heads to the Senate. If the speed changes are approved at the statehouse, the state Highway and Transportation Department would need to complete engineering studies before any changes are made.

Illinois
One state Senator is again looking to increase the speed limit on highways and interstates.

State law was amended in 2014 to permit 70 mph travel on rural four-lane highways and the Illinois Tollway.

Sen. Jim Oberweis, R-Sugar Grove, is back with a bill to raise speeds to 75 mph on most major interstates outside of Chicago. Specifically, SB2036 would affect Interstate 355, I-80 and every interstate west of I-355 and south of I-80.

Speeds on highways, other than interstates, with fewer than four lanes would be posted at 60 mph – up from 55 mph.

Oberweis says the speed change is necessary because 85 percent of traffic on interstates affected by his bill already travels between 70 and 75 mph.

His bill has 28 co-sponsors in the 59-person chamber.

Kentucky
A House bill would add one class of roadway to the list of highways where vehicles are permitted to travel 65 mph.

The speed limit is already permitted on interstates and parkways throughout the state.

Sponsored by Rep. Tim Couch, R-Hyden, HB423 would increase speeds for all vehicles on four-lane state highways from 55 to 65 mph.

West Virginia
Interstate speeds are eyed for a possible boost in a House resolution. Specifically, HCR75 would require the Commissioner of Highways to increase interstate speeds from 70 mph to 75 mph “where appropriate.”

Delegate Ron Walters, R-Kanawha, wrote that the state’s highway system previously permitted 75 mph travel on roads “that are not as able to safely handle those speeds.”

He said the existing highway system “is far better adapted to accommodate the higher speeds.”

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