Bid to increase speed limits stalls in Louisiana

| Monday, June 19, 2006

The Louisiana House has put the brakes on an effort to authorize speed limits to be increased on multilane highways in the state. However, the issue isn't dead yet.

Sponsored by Sen. Joe McPherson, D-Woodworth, the bill failed on a 50-42 vote Friday, June 16. It needed 53 votes to pass.

The bill – SB158 – would have given the Louisiana Department of Transportation and Development authority to conduct traffic safety studies to determine if higher limits on the state's interstates and other highways could be safely implemented. The speed increases would have undergone a final review by the House and Senate committees on Transportation, Highways and Public Works.

If the studies determined it was safe, the speed limit for all vehicles could have been increased to 75 mph – up from the current 70 mph. The speed limit on some other four-lane roads could have been increased from 65 mph to 70 mph. Some two-lane roads could have had speed limits increased from 55 mph to 65 mph.

Opponents say they are concerned about higher speeds causing more crashes and fatalities. Supporters say the bill simply authorizes speed limits to be increased where it is proper to do so.

McPherson still could bring the bill back for a last ditch attempt at passage before the Legislature wraps up its work at 6 p.m. Monday, June 19. If that attempt fails, supporters would still have one more chance with a bill in a House-Senate conference committee.

Offered by Rep. Hunter Greene, R-Baton Rouge, the bill initially dealt only with regulating funeral processions on highways.

Most of McPherson's bill has been amended into the funeral bill – HB240. Greene objected to that amendment, however, and a group of lawmakers are negotiating the bill's final form as the hours tick down.

Both efforts include a provision that would allow drivers of passenger vehicles impeding the flow of traffic to drive on the shoulder of a highway or interstate until the other vehicles pass. The rule would apply only on highways with paved shoulders.

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