Changes in store for Michigan speeds?

By Keith Goble, Land Line state legislative editor | 12/1/2014

A late push is underway at the Michigan statehouse to authorize truckers and other highway users to drive faster – while maintaining the speed differential on the state’s fastest roadways.

Michigan law now authorizes 70 mph speeds for motorists on certain highways while large trucks are limited to 60 mph. On other major roadways the speeds are 65 mph and 55 mph, respectively.

Rep. Brad Jacobsen, R-Oxford, is behind the bill that would alter posted speeds. HB5964 could increase speeds for motorists on rural interstates to 80 mph while trucks could be authorized to drive 70 mph.

Urban interstates could be posted at 70 mph while state highways could be posted at 65 mph. County roads could be posted at 60 mph.

Permitted speeds through construction zones would also be changed. Speeds on highways with only one lane open to traffic would be set at 60 mph. If construction workers are present without a barrier separating them from traffic, the speed would be set at 45 mph.

A similar effort was introduced in the Senate earlier this year but it never came up for committee consideration.

Jacobsen says the changes would bring speed limits more into line with how fast traffic already travels in the state.

If approved, the Wolverine 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 currently the only state east of the Mississippi River with posted speeds in excess of 70 mph.

Truckers have voiced concern that higher speed limits result in a wider disparity between the posted speed and how fast many speed-limited trucks can travel.

Officials at the Owner-Operator Independent Drivers Association say that speed limiters on trucks have a tendency to create speed differentials between trucks and other faster moving vehicles. The Association cites research that shows when speed differentials are present, the frequency of interactions with other vehicles increases.

Jacobsen’s bill, HB5964, awaits possible consideration in the House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee.

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