Effort to kill split speeds, increase all speed limits dies in Idaho

| Friday, February 25, 2005

A bill in Idaho that would have ended a lower speed limit for trucks on some highways and raised the limit for all vehicles on other roads has died.

Jeff Stratten, public information officer for the Idaho DOT, said the bill, S1133, had been pulled from consideration for the year. And it’s not certain whether it or a similar bill will be brought back up later.

The state already has the legal ability to raise the limit on some highways – principally the state’s interstates – to 75 mph. But S1133, introduced by the Senate Transportation Committee, would have allowed the state’s Transportation Board to extend that to state highways as well.

The law was intended for portions of the state’s highways where the speeds at which vehicles move are already at the higher limit, but where that condition has not led to a higher number of collisions, according to The Associated Press.

In addition to the state highway limit, the measure would have also addressed another speed related issue in the state. Currently, Idaho’s code also contains a maximum speed limit of 65 mph on interstate highways for vehicles with five or more axles operating at a gross weight of more than 26,000 pounds; an early amendment to the bill would have removed that restriction.

But it was other amendments that eventually did the bill in.

While the purpose of the bill was to allow the state’s DOT to potentially raise limits, Stratten said a late amendment removed the Transportation Department’s ability to raise speed limits on state highways to 75 mph – effectively gutting the measure.

“It’s my understanding that it had been amended several times, and the original intent of the bill was getting lost,” Stratten said.

A state official said earlier that any consideration of higher limits by the state’s DOT would be based on federal standards.

“We will be using the same processes that are used nationwide for setting speed limits,” Carl Main, a Transportation Department safety engineer, told The AP.

And that process, Stratten indicated, would not favor split speeds.

“The department believes that traffic that moves at the basic speed rate is the safest pattern,” Stratten said. “Drowsy driving and weather-related are our No. 1 and 2 causes of accidents on our interstate system.”

Had SB1133 passed, 400 miles of highway in the state – including parts of Idaho Highway 75 and U.S. 20 – could have seen an increase in speed limits, The Associated Press reported.

– By Mark H. Reddig, associate editor