Bill to raise speed limits in Indiana advances

| 3/2/2005

The Indiana Senate has approved a bill that would increase the speed limit on certain non-interstate highways. The bill would maintain the state’s 5-mph speed differential for cars and large trucks.

Senators voted 38-10 on Monday, Feb. 28, to forward the proposal to the House for further consideration. The Senate vote comes just weeks after the chamber passed a separate initiative offered by Sen. Greg Server, R-Goshen, to increase limits on rural stretches of interstate.

Sponsored by Sen. Marvin Riegsecker, R-Goshen, Monday’s measure targets those stretches of highway with design features similar to those of an interstate, such as grade-separated interchanges and wide lanes designed for higher speeds.

Under the bill – SB127 – four stretches of existing road would see speed limits for cars increase from 55 mph to 65 mph. The speed for trucks would be raised to 60 mph.

The affected stretches would be U.S. 20 from the intersection of U.S. 20 and County Road 17 in Elkhart County to the intersection of U.S. 20 and U.S. 31 in St. Joseph County; and U.S. 31 from the intersection of U.S. 31 and U.S. 20 in St. Joseph County to the boundary line between Indiana and Michigan.

Riegsecker’s proposal also would affect about 75 miles of highway yet to be built, The Indianapolis Star reported.

Server’s bill – SB217 – would raise the speed limit from 60 mph to 65 mph for large trucks and from 65 mph to 70 mph for all other vehicles on interstates outside areas with populations of at least 50,000.

Both bills have been sent to the House for further consideration.

Another bill would make the same changes offered by Server on the Indiana Toll Road.

HB1393, sponsored by Rep. Marlin Stutzman, R-Howe, is awaiting action before the full House.

Supporters of the proposals argue better-designed vehicles and roads justify higher limits. The intent, they say, is simply to raise limits to the actual speed at which drivers are traveling.

“With new vehicle and road designs, we can travel at higher speeds,” Riegsecker said.

Todd Spencer, executive vice president of the Owner-Operator Independent Drivers Association, said lawmakers were missing a greater opportunity to do away with split speeds.

“One of the main reasons highway safety has improved even as states nationwide increase speed limits is because higher speed limits tend to eliminate or minimize speed variances that are often key contributors to accidents,” Spencer said. “It makes sense now for lawmakers to use this legislation as an opportunity to once and for all establish uniform speed limits for the state’s highways.”

Spencer says it is important that Indiana truckers communicate to their elected officials that uniform speeds are safer for all drivers.