Speed limits on the rise in Iowa, Indiana

| 7/1/2005

Drivers heading down Iowa’s rural interstate highways will be given the go ahead to drive 70 mph starting Friday, July 1. And in Indiana, officials are prepping for an increase in the state’s speed limits on rural interstates and four-lane divided highways, which begins Tuesday, July 5.

On Friday morning, interstate drivers in Iowa might notice road crews busily changing signs posted with a 65 mph speed limit. Drivers also might notice an increased State Patrol presence to back up promises from state lawmakers that the new speed limit will be strictly enforced. Speeding fines also will increase.

“There will be a heavy presence,” Capt. Pat Hoye of the Iowa State Patrol told the Waterloo-Cedar Falls Courier.

To help keep drivers and Fourth of July weekend travelers in check, Iowa has one trooper available for every 139 square miles, the newspaper reported. That is five times fewer than neighboring Illinois – which has one trooper for every 26 square miles – and half as many as Missouri – which has one per every 63 square miles.

Help for Iowa troopers, however, is on the way. A class of 26 new troopers graduated in May and will hit the road in the coming months.

In the meantime, aircraft will join the effort to enforce Iowa’s new speed limit, the Courier reported. Officials are hopeful higher speeding fines also will serve as a deterrent. They expect to collect an extra $7.5 million annually from lead-footed drivers. The money from the fines and fees will go to law enforcement and the state’s courts.

Transportation department workers will start changing over speed limit signs at 9 a.m. Friday. They are expected to complete the task of updating all 450 speed limit signs by day’s end.

In neighboring Indiana, Hoosier state legislators approved a speed limit increase that maintains split speeds for cars and trucks.

Starting Tuesday, July 5, rural interstates in Indiana that are currently posted at 65 mph for cars and 60 mph for trucks will increase to 70 mph and 65 mph, respectively. State transportation officials are waiting until after the busy holiday weekend to start making the switch.

INDOT hopes to have all the new signs up by July 7 on those interstates, The Indianapolis Star reported.

The agency is still studying the rest of the state’s four-lane highways to determine whether it’s safe to raise the speed limit to 60 mph on those roads. They hope to complete their work later this summer.

– By Keith Goble, state legislative editor