Indiana House kills higher speeds bill - but issue still alive

| Friday, March 04, 2005

An Indiana House bill to increase the speed limit on the Indiana Toll Road has died. However, another effort could still result in higher speeds on the roadway.

Representatives failed to take up the measure prior to the March 1 deadline that requires bills to be passed from their originating chamber.

HB1393, offered by Rep. Marlin Stutzman, R-Howe, sought to raise the speed limit from 60 mph to 65 mph for large trucks and from 65 mph to 70 mph for all other vehicles traveling on the toll road.

However, the provision would be covered in a recently approved Senate bill dealing with all Indiana interstate highways.

Sponsored by Sen. Greg Server, R-Goshen, SB217 would make the same changes offered in the House bill on interstates outside areas with populations of at least 50,000.

Senators also have approved a bill that would increase the speed limit on certain non-interstate highways. It too would maintain the state’s 5-mph speed differential for cars and large trucks.

Senators voted 38-10 on Feb. 28 in favor of the proposal.

Sponsored by Sen. Marvin Riegsecker, R-Goshen, the measure would raise speeds on both the U.S. 31 and U.S. 20 portions of the bypass.

The bill – SB127 – is intended to target 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.

Riegsecker’s effort calls for increasing the speed limit on the entire 28-mile stretch from 55 mph to 65 mph for cars and 60 mph for trucks. It also would affect about 75 miles of highway yet to be built, The Indianapolis Star reported.

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

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 for the Owner-Operator Independent Drivers Association, said lawmakers are missing a greater opportunity – the chance 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.