Florida one step closer to faster speeds

By Keith Goble, Land Line state legislative editor | 4/18/2014

An effort at the Florida statehouse continues to move forward that could soon result in faster speeds on interstates and other limited-access highways.

The House Economic Affairs Committee voted 14-3 to send a bill to the chamber floor that could increase the posted speed limit on highways for all vehicles to as much as 75 mph.

The Senate version has also advanced through multiple committees and awaits a Senate floor vote.

Since 1996, Florida law has authorized cars and trucks to travel 70 mph on interstates. Travelers can drive 65 mph on highways with a divided median and 60 mph on other roadways.

HB761/SB392 could result in an increase of allowable speeds on the types of highway by 5 mph to 75, 70 and 65 mph, respectively.

Sen. Jeff Brandes, R-St. Petersburg, is the bill’s Senate sponsor. He says the change would bring the speed limit more into line with how fast traffic already travels in the state.

“In certain areas of the state, this bill will better reflect how drivers are actually using the roads and therefore make it safer,” Brandes testified during a recent Senate committee hearing. “We won’t have the variability between minimum speeds and maximum speeds.”

If approved, the Sunshine State would join 16 other states to authorize speeds of at least 75 mph. Only two of those states (Idaho and Montana) allow cars to travel one speed – 75 mph – while keeping trucks at a slower speed – 65 mph.

Maine is the only state east of the Mississippi River with posted speeds in excess of 70 mph.

Critics say that while it is politically popular to increase speed limits there is a trade-off in safety.

Rep. Irv Slosberg, D-Boca Raton, voiced his concern during a recent hearing about allowing large trucks to travel faster than they are already allowed in the state.

“We need faster truckers in the state of Florida like we need a third arm,” Slosberg said. “This is one thing we don’t need.”

The Florida Department of Transportation would have the final say on any speed changes. The agency would be required to decide where it would be “safe and advisable” to increase the speed limit.

“This bill would not dictate the speed limit in any part of the state. It would simply grant authority to the DOT to determine the safe speed in various parts of our state,” testified Rep. Matt Caldwell, R-Lehigh Acres.

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