Iowa bills limit left-lane use, study snow plows and rest areas

By Keith Goble, Land Line state legislative editor | Thursday, March 05, 2015

Left lane use, rest areas and DOT snow plows are among the topics Iowa lawmakers are reviewing at the statehouse.

Travelers who poke around in the far left lane on multilane highways are under scrutiny. House Transportation Committee Chairman Josh Byrnes, R-Osage, is behind a bill that would permit police to ticket people driving slowly in the passing lane of interstates and highways.

Specifically, truckers and other drivers traveling in the left lane at least 10 mph slower than the posted speed limit would be responsible for moving to the right when they are being overtaken by another vehicle at a higher rate of speed.

Violators would face $100 fines.

Exceptions would be made for vehicles in the left lane to overtake and pass another vehicle.

Supporters say limiting the left lane for passing only would result in improved traffic flow and would reduce the number of drivers who impede traffic.

The bill, HF155, is in the House Transportation Committee.

Another bill is intended to help make Iowa Department of Transportation snow plows more visible while out on the road.

DOT snow plows now are permitted to use only flashing amber lights. SF75 would permit the agency to study adding flashing blue and white lights.

In addition to amber lights, neighboring Minnesota trucks now use blue lights while Nebraska uses blue and white lights on their snow plows. Missouri and South Dakota plows have amber and white lights.

Iowa transportation officials say the change could help address the more than 200 wrecks involving snow plows during the past five years.

The Senate Transportation Committee voted to advance the three-year study bill to the chamber floor for further consideration. If approved by state lawmakers, blue and white lights would be mounted on 175 snow plows at a cost of $600 per truck.

Federal research funds are expected to cover 80 percent of the costs involved.

One more bill in the Senate Transportation Committee addresses concern about the retention of highway rest areas.

SF117 would require the Iowa DOT to do a cost-benefit analysis before moving forward with plans to build new rest areas along an interstate or highway.

The department would be responsible for considering all available options for improving existing facilities. New facilities could only be built if it is determined that making improvements would be “cost prohibitive.”

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