Florida effort to boost speeds rolls on

By Keith Goble, Land Line state legislative editor | 3/20/2014

A bill on the move at the Florida statehouse could soon result in faster speeds on interstates and other limited-access highways.

The House Transportation and Highway Safety Subcommittee voted 13-1 to advance a bill that could increase the posted speed limit on highways for all vehicles to as much as 75 mph.

Florida law authorizes cars and trucks to travel 70 mph on interstates. Drivers can travel 65 mph on highways with a divided median and 60 mph on other roadways.

The House bill could result in an increase of allowable speeds on the types of highway by 5 mph to 75, 70 and 65 mph, respectively.

Sen. Jeff Brandes, R-St. Petersburg, is the bill’s Senate sponsor. He says the change would bring the speed limit more into line with how fast traffic already travels in the state.

“In certain areas of the state, this bill will better reflect how drivers are actually using the roads and therefore make it safer,” Brandes testified. “We won’t have the variability between minimum speeds and maximum speeds.”

If approved, the Sunshine State would join 16 other states to authorize speeds of at least 75 mph. Only two of those states (Idaho and Montana) allow cars to travel one speed – 75 mph – while keeping trucks at a slower speed – 65 mph.

Maine is the only state east of the Mississippi River with posted speeds in excess of 70 mph.

The Florida Department of Transportation would have the final say on any speed changes. The agency would be required to decide where it would be “safe and advisable” to increase the speed limit.

Critics say that while it is politically popular to increase speed limits there is a trade-off in safety.

Rep. Irv Slosberg, D-Boca Raton, was the lone committee member to vote in opposition to the bill. He shared his concern about allowing large trucks to travel faster than they are already allowed in the state.

“We need faster truckers in the state of Florida like we need a third arm,” Slosberg said. “This is one thing we don’t need.”

The bill awaits further consideration in the House Economic Affairs Committee. If approved there, HB761 would move to the House floor.

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