Georgia lawmakers vote to bump up urban speed limits

By Keith Goble, Land Line state legislative editor | 4/16/2014

A bill on the governor’s desk could soon authorize truckers and other drivers traveling through some of Georgia’s highly populated areas to travel a little faster.

Speed limits in metro areas around the state with more than 50,000 people now are capped at 65 mph.

House lawmakers voted 158-7 to sign off on Senate changes to a bill that includes a provision to allow the speed limit in urban areas to be raised to 70 mph – up from 55 mph and 65 mph. The bill next moves to Gov. Nathan Deal’s desk. The Senate approved the bill on a 45-3 vote.

Josh Waller with the Georgia Department of Transportation said during a recent bill hearing the change could be done in areas where it could improve traffic flow.

Rep. Sam Watson, R-Moultrie, said his bill is an effort to bring Georgia speed limits up to par with other nearby states. However, he noted passage of the bill wouldn’t mean that speeds would change.

“This wouldn’t be an automatic change. Studies would need to be done to make sure this is OK to do,” Watson previously testified to a House committee.

Specifically, HB774 would require traffic studies performed by the Georgia Department of Transportation before travelers on urban interstates could be authorized to drive faster.

The agency increased the speed limit from 55 mph to 65 mph on a nearly 30-mile stretch of Interstate 285 in Atlanta late last year.

Waller addressed concerns about areas with heavy traffic. He told lawmakers there are certain areas with road signage and heavy driving conditions that would make any speed changes inappropriate. But based on posted speeds in neighboring states, he said higher speeds could work on certain Georgia highways.

“We looked at our neighbors with their urbanized maximum speeds set at 70 mph. It seems appropriate to take this step to give us the flexibility to make changes,” Waller said.

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