UPDATED: Speed limit changes approved, pursued in seven states

By Keith Goble, Land Line state legislative editor | 4/8/2019

The pursuit of changes to speed limit rules are underway at statehouses from Montana to West Virginia. Legislators in multiple states are pursuing the elimination of speed limit differentials for cars and trucks, while legislation in two other states would introduce differentials.

The Owner-Operator Independent Drivers Association says roadways are safest when all vehicles are allowed to travel at the same rate of speed. The Association does not advocate for a specific speed limit.

Arkansas

State lawmakers have voted to advance to the governor’s desk a bill intended to speed up conversion to higher speed limits on certain highways around the state. A change made along the way also would reintroduce a speed differential in the state.

A two-year old Arkansas law permits the State Highway Commission to increase speed limits only after completing an engineering and traffic investigation. The maximum speed limits on controlled-access highways can be 75 mph.

HB1631 would mandate a 75 mph speed limit on freeways outside urban areas. Large trucks, however, would be allowed to travel up to 70 mph.

Speeds on urban freeways would be set at 65 mph for all vehicles.

The new speed limit along a stretch of roadway would revert to its previous maximum only after an engineering and traffic investigation that finds the new maximum unsafe.

The pursuit of a speed limit differential is in contrast to a 2015 decision made by the Arkansas Highway Commission to rid the state of slower speeds for large vehicles.

At the time, commissioners referred to research that showed a differential speed limit is not effective for the efficient flow of traffic.

OOIDA says HB1631 would adversely impact the state’s motoring public and reduce highway safety.

Mike Matousek, OOIDA’s manager of government affairs, says that truckers are firsthand observers of the negative consequences of misguided traffic laws, including differential speed limits.

“OOIDA and our members are opposed to differential speed limits because they are counterproductive to safety, limit the ability of truck drivers to fully control their vehicle and negatively impact the behavior of other drivers and vehicle,” Matousek communicated to the bill sponsor.

“Ultimately, they create more interactions between cars and trucks, which leads to dangerous passing, aggressive driving, and an increase in the number of accidents.”

California

Two notable efforts are underway in Sacramento to revise the state’s speed limit rules.

The first bill calls for doing away with speed differential for cars and trucks.

Currently, smaller vehicles are allowed to drive 65 mph – 70 mph in certain locations – while large vehicles are limited to 55 mph.

Sponsored by Assemblyman Randy Voepel, R-Santee, AB172 would raise truck speed limits to 65 mph in rural areas.

Matousek said the Association welcomes interest in the California Legislature to address the state's split limit differential for cars and trucks.

“We look at the current speed limit laws in California as a deterrent to highway safety,” Matousek said. “They are also a contributing factor to increased congestion, carbon emissions, and increased inefficiencies with local, regional, and national goods movement.”

A separate bill would permit faster travel for all vehicles on portions of Interstate 5 and state Route 99.

Sponsored by Sen. John Moorlach, R-Costa Mesa, SB319 calls for adding two lanes each way without speed limits.

Moorlach said his plan is a “viable alternative” to a high-speed rail system project pursued by leading state officials for years. He said his bill would be much cheaper than the $77 billion “bullet train” project to provide faster travel between Northern and Southern California.

The bill awaits further consideration in the House Commerce and Economic Development Committee.

Kentucky

A new law in Kentucky will increase the speed limit from 65 mph to 70 mph on two highways.

Previously HB266, the new law adds Interstate 165 to the list of highways and parkways in the state with 70 mph speed limits posted. Faster travel for all vehicles also is authorized for the entire length of the highway.

In addition, 70 mph travel is permitted for the entire length of the Bert T. Combs Mountain Parkway Extension. Currently, 70 mph travel is permitted along the parkway from I-64 to the beginning of the Mountain Parkway Extension in Wolfe County. Elsewhere on the affected parkway, a 65 mph speed limit is posted.

Massachusetts

Multiple bills introduced at the statehouse would revise speed limit rules.

The first bill, H3023, would increase the state’s 65 mph speed limit to 70 mph.

Another bill, H3024, would permit the use of variable speed limits on limited-access roadways, including the Massachusetts Turnpike. Situations that would activate variable speed limits cover congestion, weather conditions, or “any other temporary factor that has a bearing on a safe speed.”

A separate 14-page bill includes a provision that covers roadway work zones. S7 would permit the Massachusetts DOT to set up temporary speed limits in work zones. Fines for speeding in affected areas would be doubled when workers are present.

The bills are in the Joint Committee on Transportation.

Montana

One bill moving through the Senate would raise truck speeds. House lawmakers have already approved it.

HB393 would raise the speed limit for trucks on interstate highways from 65 mph to 70 mph throughout the day. Truck speeds on all noninterstate highways would be set at 65 mph for all hours of the day.

State highways are limited to 60 mph during the day and 55 mph at night.

Cars are permitted to travel 65 mph on non-interstate highways and up to 80 mph on rural interstate highways.

“Speed limits should be set to keep traffic flowing freely. Currently trucks are set at 10 mph below the rest of traffic, which causes congestion on our highways,” Rep. Joshua Kassmier, R-Fort Benton, testified during a Senate Highways and Transportation Committee hearing. “It is my belief that allowing traffic to flow more freely is in the best interest of everyone’s safety.”

The bill awaits a Senate floor vote. If approved without changes, it would head to the governor’s desk.

Oklahoma

Senate Transportation Committee voted to advance a bill to amend rules on speed limits for the state’s turnpike system and interstate highways are moving forward. House lawmakers previously approved a slightly different version of the bill.

Oklahoma already permits all vehicles to travel at 75 mph on four-lane divided highways, including interstates. A 2016 state law, however, permits higher posted speeds after a state Department of Transportation engineering and traffic investigation.

HB1071 would authorize the speed on the turnpike system to be raised to 80 mph – up from 75. The bill would also permit the maximum posted speed on rural interstate highways to be increased from 70 to 75 mph.

The bill has moved to the full Senate for consideration. If approved there, it would head back to the House for final approval before moving to the governor.

West Virginia

The Legislature approved a resolution that could result in a change to the posted speed on the state’s fastest highways.

House Concurrent Resolution 32 gives the state DOT authority to increase the speed limit on interstate highways from 70 mph to 75 mph. Specifically, the measure grants the agency authority to make changes “where appropriate” on interstates.

 

 

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