Wyoming highways soon to be posted at 80 mph

By Keith Goble, Land Line state legislative editor | Monday, March 17, 2014

A new law makes Wyoming the third state to authorize at least 80 mph travel. Across country in Maryland, state lawmakers are considering their own speed boost.

Wyoming Gov. Matt Mead signed a bill into law to permit 80 mph speeds for all travelers on certain highway segments – up from 75 mph.

The state’s Senate voted 24-6 to endorse the change after House lawmakers approved it on a 53-6 vote.

Neighboring Utah and Texas are the only states that allow vehicles to travel 80 mph or higher on portions of roadway.

Previously HB12, the new law requires the Wyoming Department of Transportation to study what sections of the state’s 900 miles of interstate highway could handle the higher speed limit.

House Speaker Tom Lubnau, R-Gillette, and Sen. Michael Von Flatern, R-Gillette, said they believe the switch could improve safety on roads because the disparity in vehicle speeds would be reduced. The co-sponsors of the bill have referred to research collected from Utah and Texas that shows highways posted at 80 mph have fewer accidents because vehicles travel at similar speeds.

Critics, including the Wyoming Highway Patrol Association, said that raising the speed limit would result in people driving even faster than they already drive. Also, they said that crashes become more severe the faster vehicles are traveling.

WYDOT estimates that most vehicles traveling on rural portions of interstate throughout the state already drive 79 mph.

The state of Wyoming estimates it will cost $110,000 to study the issue and change signage. Specifically, it will cost $30,000 to perform an engineering study to identify sections of interstate that will accommodate 80 mph speeds. Another $80,000 is necessary to change as many as 330 speed limit signs and 20 non-electronic variable message signs.

WYDOT can start studying on July 1 the segments of roadway that will accommodate faster travel.

Across country in Maryland, House lawmakers voted unanimously to advance a bill to raise the speed limit by 5 mph on interstate highways.

“Basically, it allows the speed limit to be increased from 65 to 70 mph on certain roads, especially up in western Maryland,” Delegate James Malone, D-Baltimore, said during a recent hearing on his bill.

Highway officials would make the final decision on whether to increase speeds from 65 to 70 mph.

HB555 is in the Senate Judicial Proceedings Committee.

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