Wyoming lawmakers endorse 80 mph speeds

By Keith Goble, Land Line state legislative editor | 3/5/2014

Truckers and other drivers traveling through Wyoming could soon be authorized to drive a little bit faster than they are accustomed.

The state’s Senate voted 24-6 on Tuesday, March 4, to send a bill to the governor that would authorize 80 mph speeds for all travelers on certain highway segments – up from 75 mph. House lawmakers already approved the bill on a 53-6 vote.

Neighboring Utah and Texas are the only states that allow vehicles to travel 80 mph or higher on portions of roadway.

House Speaker Tom Lubnau, R-Gillette, is the sponsor of the bill – HB12 – to require the Wyoming Department of Transportation to study what sections of interstate highway could handle the higher speed limit.

Lubnau and Sen. Michael Von Flatern, R-Gillette, said they believe the switch could improve safety on roads because the disparity in vehicle speeds would be reduced. The co-sponsors have referred to research collected from Utah and Texas that shows highways posted at 80 mph have fewer accidents because vehicles travel at similar speeds.

Critics, including the Wyoming Highway Patrol Association, say that raising the speed limit would result in people driving even faster than they already drive. Also, they say that crashes become more severe the faster vehicles are traveling.

The state of Wyoming estimates it would cost $110,000 to study the issue and change signage. Specifically, it would cost $30,000 to perform an engineering study to identify sections of interstate that would accommodate 80 mph speeds. Another $80,000 would be necessary to change as many as 330 speed limit signs and 20 non-electronic variable message signs.

If signed into law by Gov. Matt Mead, WYDOT could start studying on July 1 the segments of roadway that would accommodate faster travel.

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