Montana lawmakers back bills to revise rules on speed limits, megaloads

By Keith Goble, Land Line state legislative editor | 4/13/2015

An attempt to change Montana’s rules on speed limits is advancing through the statehouse while a separate effort signed into law revises rules on megaloads.

The House Transportation Committee voted 9-5 on Saturday, April 11, to advance a bill to authorize faster travel on portions of the state’s fastest roadways – while maintaining a speed differential between cars and trucks.

SB375 awaits further consideration on the House floor. If approved there, the bill would move back to the Senate for approval of changes before it can head to the governor’s desk.

State law now permits car drivers to travel 75 mph on rural stretches of interstate while truck drivers are limited to 65 mph. All vehicles can travel 65 mph along urban stretches of interstate.

Sen. Scott Sales, R-Bozeman, is behind a bill that would authorize the Montana Department of Transportation to raise the speed limit for cars to 80 mph on non-urban stretches of interstate. Truck speeds would be set at 70 mph.

A provision was removed from the bill that permitted faster travel only on specific portions of non-urban stretches of Interstates 90, 94 and 15.

The Owner-Operator Independent Drivers Association opposes efforts that maintain a differential in car and truck speeds.

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

The changes in posted speeds could result in about 3,000 signage changes along Montana highways, according to a fiscal analysis attached to the bill. The price tag to make the needed changes is about $245,550.

A separate provision in the bill boosts speeding fines from up to $100 to a maximum of $200.

Gov. Steve Bullock signed into law another bill that revises rules related to so-called megaloads.

Previously HB222, the new law prohibits local governments from collecting fees to move affected loads along state-managed highways. The change takes effect on Oct. 1, 2015.

Advocates said the rule change avoids excessive permit fees such as the $300 fee charged by the city of Missoula. Others said the fees charged for shipping companies to access state highways is bad business.

To view other legislative activities of interest for Montana, click here.

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