Washington bill could widen speed differential along stretch of I-90

By Keith Goble, Land Line state legislative editor | 3/2/2015

A Washington state Senate panel advanced an amended bill that would widen the speed differential between cars and trucks along a nearly 150-mile portion of Interstate 90.

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

The Senate Transportation Committee voted 9-5 to endorse a bill that would raise the posted speed for car drivers from 70 to 75 mph on I-90 from Ellensburg to the Spokane County line. SB5228 would keep truck speeds unchanged.

As introduced, the bill sought to permit faster car speeds on the roadway in Adams, Grant, Kittitas and Lincoln counties. The amended version removed the stretch of roadway that included Snoqualmie Pass.

Senate Transportation Committee Chairman Curtis King, R-Yakima, supported the bill. Before the panel vote he told lawmakers his experience on the affected portion of I-90 is that people already drive 75 mph.

“We might as well make them legal,” King said.

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.

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 he has communicated with lawmakers in the state that roadways are safer when all vehicles are permitted to travel at the same rate of speed. His message:

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

SB5228 awaits further consideration on the Senate floor. If approved there, it would move to the House.

Copyright © OOIDA