An effort at the Wisconsin statehouse to increase speed limits on 800 miles of state highways has taken the first step toward passage.
The Assembly Transportation Committee voted 9-6 on Tuesday, Oct. 8, to advance a bill that would raise the speed limit from 65 mph to 70 mph on rural four-lane highways.
Specifically, AB389 would increase the speed limit for all vehicles on rural interstates, freeways and expressways. The Wisconsin Department of Transportation would be able to set lower speeds near cities.
After Tuesday’s vote, Rep. Paul Tittl, R-Manitowoc, said he was pleased that the committee advanced his bill to the full Assembly where a vote could come as soon as next week.
“Most people tell me it’s about time,” Tittl stated.
Tittl previously told committee members the bill isn’t just about getting from one place to another more quickly. He cited traffic safety experts who say the change could help to make roadways safer.
During a committee hearing early this month Tittl said the state would be well served to adopt speeds that more closely reflect the 85th percentile rule. The method is used to set speed limits at or below the speed at which 85 percent of traffic is moving.
According to WisDOT, all four interstates have 85th percentile speeds that exceed 70 mph. The highest rate is 78 mph on portions of Interstate 43.
Tittl said the change is also needed to avoid having the state fall behind other states in the region.
Wisconsin soon will be one of only two states west of the Appalachian Mountains with speeds for motorists below 70 mph; Oregon is the other. Eight states limit large trucks to speeds below 70 mph.
AB389 would leave the final decision up to WisDOT on sections of roadway where speed increases would be suitable.
“We want to allow the DOT time to conduct engineering and safety studies to identify the segments where the speed limit would remain at 65,” Tittl said. “These provisions ensure that the speed limit increase takes place in a safe and measured manner only where it’s appropriate.”
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