Starting this summer, drivers on certain stretches of Iowa
interstates will get the go ahead to hold down the accelerator a little
Gov. Tom Vilsack signed legislation Tuesday, April 19, to
raise the speed limit on rural interstate highways in Iowa from 65 mph to 70
mph. In exchange, there will be a heftier price to pay if speed limits are
The governor, who has opposed higher speed limits in the
past, said he would direct the Iowa State Patrol to strictly enforce the 70 mph
limit, which takes effect July 1.
“With strict enforcement, we shouldn’t see increased accidents,” he told The Associated Press.
The new speeding fines will raise an estimated $7.6 million
a year to help pay for the state’s court system.
The higher fines only apply to citations on roads posted at
55 mph and above. One of the most common fines, for exceeding the speed limit
by 6 to 10 mph, will be $82, up from $43.
Vilsack used his line-item veto power to delete a portion of
the measure that would have set aside up to $800,000 a year for new cars for
the Iowa State Patrol.
“We’re not going to link fines with funding for the
Department of Public Safety,” the governor told gathered news media after
signing the bill – HF826. He asked lawmakers to come up with that money from
the state’s general budget.
The measure squeaked through the Legislature earlier this
year, gaining passage in the House on a 51-49 vote and Senate approval on a
As the bill moved through the House and Senate, opponents
contended the higher limit would lead to more accidents. Supporters said the
measure was about safety – ensuring more vehicles on the road travel at similar
Rep. Dave Tjepkes, R-Gowrie, a retired trooper who guided
the bill through the House, recently told The Quad-City Times studies
have shown that drivers travel interstate highways in Iowa at an average speed
of 71 mph regardless of whether the posted speed limit is 65 or 70.
As a condition of the bill’s passage into law, the Iowa
Department of Transportation will review all rural interstates to find areas
where a higher speed could be dangerous. The study should be finished by July
1, when the change takes effect.
It will cost the state $124,000 to update all 450 speed
limit signs, The AP reported. The money to change the postings will come
out of a DOT sign budget.
Among Iowa’s neighbors, Wisconsin has a 65 mph limit,
Minnesota and Missouri allow drivers to travel 70 mph, and Nebraska and South
Dakota have a 75 mph limit. Illinois has a 65 mph limit for cars and 55 mph
limit for trucks.