Idaho bills would increase speeds, fuel tax

By Keith Goble, Land Line state legislative editor | 2/13/2014

Truckers traveling through Idaho could soon drive a little faster in certain areas – although still slower than motorists – and be responsible for paying more at the fuel pump.

A bill moving through the Senate could result in speed increases to 80 mph and 70 mph on certain roadways for some vehicles.

Only Utah and Texas now permit travelers to drive at least 80 mph.

Idaho law authorizes motorists to travel 75 mph on interstates. In 1998, large truck speeds were dropped from 75 mph to 65 mph. Speeds are 65 mph for all vehicles on state highways.

The Senate Transportation Committee voted unanimously on Tuesday, Feb. 11, to advance a bill with a plan to amend it that would require the Idaho Transportation Department to determine whether highways could handle the higher speeds, up to 70 mph on state highways and 80 mph on interstates.

Truck speeds on interstates would continue to be 10 mph slower.

Senate Majority Leader Bart Davis, R-Idaho Falls, told the committee before the vote that simply approving the bill wouldn’t automatically result in faster speeds around the state.

“Idaho has had the tradition of ‘let’s take the politics out of speed limits.’ This bill leaves it up to the experts to decide,” Davis testified.

OOIDA Board Member Bill Rode of Eagle, Idaho, previously served on a work group to discuss possible changes to the state’s speed limit rules.

The longtime truck driver touted the safety benefits of uniform speeds, which result in fewer interactions between cars and trucks. However, the group stopped short of recommending elimination of the speed differential.

Davis also told the committee before the vote that his bill needs to be changed on the Senate floor to prevent an unintended change in truck speeds while traveling through urban areas.

“Today, a truck driving through an urban area can drive 65 mph. The bill language would effectively drop truck speeds to 55 mph. That was not the intent of this bill.”

The committee approved S1284 with a note to make the change on the Senate floor.

OOIDA encourages Idaho truckers to contact their state senators to voice concerns about the speed differential.

On the House side, H481 would increase the state’s 25-cent-per-gallon fuel tax rate by 6 cents.

The House Transportation Committee recently heard testimony on the bill to increase the tax rate to 31 cents over three years. Specifically, the bill would increase the tax rate by 2 cents each year through 2016.

Supporters say that something needs to be done to help the state address a $262 million annual shortfall for road and bridge repairs.

Julie Pipal, president of the Idaho Trucking Association, advocates the tax increase. She pointed out that including road and bridge improvements would put the state $600 million a year behind where they need to be.

“The bottom line is the system continues to deteriorate and the conversation continues to surround the problem. Nobody is talking about solutions,” Pipal told “Land Line Now.” “We need to start talking about solutions.”

A fiscal note attached to the bill estimates that each penny increase would raise about $8.8 million. Once fully implemented, the 6-cent increase would add about $52.8 million for roads and bridges.

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