Sixteen states consider speed limit changes

By Keith Goble, Land Line state legislative editor | Monday, February 10, 2014

On the heels of recent action to increase speeds along certain roadways in states that include Illinois and Pennsylvania, state lawmakers throughout the country are taking steps to authorize faster speeds.

A Florida Senate panel has taken the initial step toward authorizing a 5-mph increase in the speed limits on interstates and other limited-access highways. The change would give the state DOT the final say on any changes.

Sen. Jeff Brandes, R-St. Petersburg, told members of the Senate Transportation Committee the change would bring the speed limit more into line with how fast traffic already travels.

“This legislation allows Florida Department of Transportation traffic engineers to determine on a case-by-case basis safe and advisable speeds,” Brandes testified.

Across the state line in Georgia, a bill halfway through the statehouse would require traffic studies before travelers on urban interstates could be authorized to drive 70 mph – up from 65 mph.

Relying on experts to set speeds is a growing trend across the country as lawmakers call for changes to allow state departments of transportation officials to decide where faster speeds can be set.

In Wyoming, another bill would authorize 80 mph speeds for truckers and other drivers on certain highway segments – up from 75 mph.

House Speaker Tom Lubnau, R-Gillette, said the Wyoming DOT would be required to study what sections of interstate highway could handle the higher speed.

Lubnau has said he believes the switch could improve safety on roads because the disparity in vehicle speeds would be reduced. He referred to research collected from Utah and Texas that shows highways posted at 80 mph have fewer accidents because vehicles travel at similar speeds.

States considering bills to set 75-mph travel for all vehicles include Mississippi, Missouri and New York. An Oklahoma bill would permit 75 mph travel on four-lane divided highways, including interstates now posted at 70 mph. Turnpike speeds could also increase to 80 mph. A Utah bill would open the door to 80 mph speeds. In Idaho, one bill could result in speed increases to 80 mph and 70 mph on certain roadways for smaller vehicles while truck speeds would stay 10 mph slower.

Elsewhere, state lawmakers in Maryland, New Hampshire and West Virginia have bills to authorize speeds of 70 mph. Kentucky, Michigan, South Dakota and Virginia also have bills that would affect speeds along various roadways.

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