Washington bill could widen car-truck speed differential

By Keith Goble, Land Line state legislative editor | 2/17/2015

An effort underway at the Washington statehouse would widen the speed limit differential between cars and trucks along Interstate 90 in four counties.

State law now permits motorists to travel 70 mph on rural stretches of interstate while truck drivers are limited to 60 mph.

A bill in the Senate Transportation Committee would raise the posted speed for car drivers from 70 to 75 mph on I-90 in Adams, Grant, Kittitas and Lincoln counties. SB5228 would keep truck speeds unchanged.

The Evergreen State is one of 38 states to authorize speeds of at least 70 mph. However, only six states keep trucks at speeds below 70 mph.

Bill advocates say that cars traveling on the affected portions of interstate are already driving in excess of 70 mph.

Allison Camden, a spokesperson with the Washington State Department of Transportation, provided testimony during a recent committee hearing on the bill. She said that widening the speed differential between cars and trucks could create additional safety concerns on the road.

Camden encouraged lawmakers to take a more “deliberative process” that gives state and local transportation officials more of a say.

An official with the Washington Traffic Safety Commission also expressed concern that higher speed limits for cars could negatively affect road safety.

Officials at the Owner-Operator Independent Drivers Association oppose efforts that maintain a differential in car and truck speeds.

Mike Matousek, OOIDA’s director of state legislative affairs, says that roadways are safer when all vehicles are permitted to travel at the same rate of speed.

“Differential speed limits create more interactions between cars and trucks, which can lead to an increase in the number and severity of accidents,” Matousek said. “They are also a contributing factor to increased congestion, carbon emissions, and increase inefficiencies with local, regional, and national goods movement.”

In a letter submitted to the chairpersons of the House and Senate transportation committees, Matousek said the legislative effort creates new safety risks that are simply unacceptable.

“Rather than make an existing problem worse, we urge the Legislature to consider adopting uniform speed limits on all roadways in Washington.”

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