Wisconsin panel considers possible speed change

By Keith Goble, Land Line state legislative editor | 11/1/2013

A Wisconsin Senate panel discussed a bill on Thursday, Oct. 31, that would increase speed limits on state highways but could leave truck speeds unchanged. OOIDA leadership says it’s imperative for road safety that any changes made to driving speeds promote uniformity.

The Senate Transportation, Public Safety, and Veterans and Military Affairs Committee reviewed a bill that would raise the speed limit from 65 to 70 mph on rural interstates. Assembly lawmakers already approved the bill on a 63-32 vote.

AB389 would require the Wisconsin Department of Transportation to make the final decision on sections of interstate where speed increases would be suitable. The agency would have six months to change speeds on affected portions of roadway.

Rep. Paul Tittl, R-Manitowoc, told panel members the bill is about safety.

“The bill allows the DOT time to conduct engineering and safety studies to identify the segments where the speed limit should remain at 65,” Tittl testified. “These provisions will ensure the speed limit increase takes place in a safe and measured manner only where it’s appropriate.”

Tittl, the bill’s Assembly sponsor, also talked about a change made to the bill on the Assembly floor. The change would authorize WisDOT to consider whether the maximum speed for large trucks should remain at 65 mph.

He said the provision was a compromise with others who oppose a speed limit increase for large trucks.

“We compromised and decided to let the safety engineers decide. We want it to be decided based on safety,” Tittl told Land Line before the Senate hearing.

Sen. Joe Leibham, R-Sheboygan, said he has heard from many people in his district about the proposal.

“It’s kind of mixed in my area as to people’s feelings on raising the speed limit,” Leibham said.

John Bowman with the National Motorists Association told lawmakers that most people are already driving in the 70 to 75 mph range on the state’s interstates.

“Research from the Federal Highway Administration shows that drivers tend to travel at a speed that they feel is safe and reasonable, regardless of the posted speed,” Bowman said. “In most cases this turns out to be the safest speed to travel and sets the engineering basis for properly set speed limits.”

Tittl said that failure to approve the bill would keep Wisconsin behind other states.

Wisconsin soon will be one of only two states west of the Appalachian Mountains with speeds for motorists below 70 mph – Oregon. Eight states limit large trucks to speeds below 70 mph.

“We are an island all the way from Oregon to Pennsylvania,” he said.

The Senate committee didn’t vote on AB389. They could take the issue up for consideration again as early as next week.

Tittl said he is confident that some version of the bill will get through the statehouse.

“We will pass it one way or another.”

OOIDA issued a Call to Action to Wisconsin truckers encouraging them to contact their state Senators about the importance of maintaining uniforms speeds on the state’s roadways.

To view other legislative activities of interest for Wisconsin, click here.

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