Wisconsin panel will consider possible speed change

By Keith Goble, Land Line state legislative editor | 2/13/2015

A Wisconsin state lawmaker is trying again to get a bill through the statehouse to increase speed limits on highways around the state.

Rep. Paul Tittl, R-Manitowoc, introduced the bill to raise the speed limit from 65 to 70 mph on rural interstates.

The Wisconsin Department of Transportation would make the final decision on sections of interstate where speed increases would be suitable.

Tittl says the state DOT has studied the issue and found that average speeds on many highways around the state are already in excess of 70 mph. However, he says the effort to authorize a speed increase isn’t just about getting from one place to another faster.

“It’s also about making our highways safer,” Tittl said in a news release. “Increasing the speed limit can reduce congestion that often contributes to unsafe driving and accidents.”

In 2013, Assembly lawmakers approved a similar version that authorized WisDOT to consider whether the maximum speed for large trucks should remain at 65 mph. The bill failed to get out of a Senate committee.

Tittl said at the time the provision was a compromise with others who oppose a speed limit increase for large trucks.

Officials with the Owner-Operator Independent Drivers Association say that roadways are safer when all vehicles are permitted to travel at the same rate of speed.

Mike Matousek, OOIDA’s director of state legislative affairs, said that differential speed limits create more interactions between cars and trucks, which can potentially lead to an increase in the number and severity of accidents.

“They are also a contributing factor to increased congestion, diesel emissions, and inefficiencies with local, regional, and national goods movement.”

Tittl said that failure to approve the bill would keep Wisconsin behind other states.

Wisconsin is one of only two states west of the Appalachian Mountains with speeds for motorists below 70 mph; Oregon is the other. Eight states limit large trucks to speeds below 70 mph.

“This bill will align the state’s speed limit with that of neighboring states and most of the country,” Tittl stated.

The bill, AB27, is scheduled to be considered by the Assembly Transportation Committee hearing on Feb. 17. OOIDA has submitted written testimony on the bill to committee members.

The bill’s Senate version, SB26, is in the Senate Transportation and Veterans Affairs Committee.

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