UPDATE: Five states pursue action on speed changes

By Keith Goble, Land Line state legislative editor | 4/24/2017

Elected officials from coast to coast are discussing possible changes to speed limit rules.

The Owner-Operator Independent Drivers Association says roadways are safest when all vehicles are permitted to travel at the same rate of speed.

Gov. Asa Hutchinson has signed into law a bill that opens the door to 75 mph travel on interstates – up from 70 mph. Other highways could have speeds increased from 60 to 65 mph.

Since 2015, all vehicles traveling on Arkansas highways have been permitted to travel at 70 mph. The Arkansas Highway Commission approved an order at the time abandoning the 65 mph speed rule for trucks on rural stretches of interstates.

The new law, HB2057, puts the uniform speed rule into statute. Additionally, all vehicles are authorized to travel at 75 mph. Other highways can be posted at 65 mph for all vehicles – up from 60 mph.

The highway commission acted two years ago as a result of research that showed a differential speed limit is not effective for the efficient flow of traffic.

Danny Straessle, spokesman with the Arkansas Highway and Transportation Department, said at the time the agency was noticing a lot of problems with congestion along Interstate 40 in east Arkansas.

“In some instances (the speed differential) actually delays traffic or causes congestion,” Straessle told Land Line. “It was a matter of ‘Are we really accomplishing anything with a differential speed limit?’ ‘Are we hurting the situation more than we are helping?’ So the commission made the decision to just go ahead and do away with the differential.”

HB2057 specifies that before any speed limit increase takes effect, the state Highway and Transportation Department must complete engineering studies to determine which stretches of roadway can accommodate faster travel.

A Senate bill would increase the speed limit on highways and interstates.

State law was amended in 2014 to permit 70 mph travel on rural four-lane highways and the Illinois Tollway.

Sponsored by Sen. Jim Oberweis, R-Sugar Grove, SB2036 would raise speeds to 75 mph on most major interstates outside of Chicago. Specifically, the bill would affect Interstate 355, I-80, and every interstate west of I-355 and south of I-80.

Speeds on highways, other than interstates, with fewer than four lanes would be posted at 60 mph – up from 55 mph.

Oberweis says the speed change is necessary because 85 percent of traffic on interstates affected by his bill already travels between 70 and 75 mph.

His bill has 28 co-sponsors in the 59-person chamber. The bill is in the Senate Assignments Committee.

If a state lawmaker gets his way, speed differentials would be implemented on the state’s busiest roadways.

Louisiana law now permits car and truck drivers to travel 75 mph on rural interstate highways. Speeds for all vehicles are set at 70 mph on urban interstates and on other limited access highways.

Rep. Steve Carter, R-Baton Rouge, is behind a bill to slow large trucks by at least 10 mph on interstate highways. In effect, trucks would be restricted to traveling 65 mph on rural stretches of highway and slowed to 60 mph along urban portions.

Only seven states post slower speeds for trucks statewide.

Mike Matousek, OOIDA’s director of state legislative affairs, said most states recognize the safety benefits of uniform speed limits and are moving away from differential speeds.

He has communicated with Carter the Association’s concerns about the bill.

Matousek highlighted research from the OOIDA Foundation, which concludes that a higher variance of vehicle speeds in traffic flow increases the risk of an accident.

HB465 is in the House Transportation, Highways and Public Works Committee.

New York
One Senate bill would open the door to faster speeds on certain highways. A4699 would authorize the transportation commissioner to bump speeds on rural interstates, including the New York Thruway, to 75 mph – up from 65 mph. Divided highways with at least four lanes could have speeds posted at 65 mph.

The Senate approved another bill to permit more locales throughout the state to set their own speed limits.

New York law now requires most towns to petition the state DOT to set local speed limits. However, villages, cities and about 80 towns with populations exceeding 50,000 are exempt from the requirement.

S389 would authorize all towns to enact ordinances to set speed limits within their own jurisdictions. According to state figures, the change would affect about 852 towns throughout the state.

Sen. Betty Little, R-Queensberry, has referred to the legislation as a “mandate relief measure.”

The bill would authorize towns to set speed limits on all town highways that are classified as local roads. Speeds would be posted below the 55 mph maximum speed limit.

The state DOT would continue to have jurisdiction to set speed limits on town roads for towns that don’t want to do it themselves.

S389 awaits consideration in the Assembly Transportation Committee.

The state Department of Transportation is discussing whether to reduce speed differentials.

Oregon law now permits motorists to drive 65 mph on the state’s fastest roadways and limits large trucks to 55 mph.

ODOT is conducting an engineering study on the impacts of increasing truck speeds on interstates to 60 mph – reducing the speed gap to 5 mph.

OOIDA supports efforts to do away with speed differentials.

Matousek says that truckers are firsthand observers of the negative consequences of misguided traffic laws, including differential speed limits.

The Association has conveyed to ODOT that OOIDA’s membership – and available data suggests – roadways are safest when all vehicles are permitted to travel at the same rate of speed.

“In Oregon, establishing uniform speed limits – presumably through a slight increase in speed limits for commercial trucks – would simply allow commercial trucks to flow with traffic, get to their destination quicker, and decrease the amount of trucks on the road,” Matousek said. “All of this can be accomplished without compromising safety.”

A panel reviewing the issue is expected to submit their recommendations to the Transportation Commission this summer. A final decision could be made in August.

Previous article on the topic:
Five states consider speed changes

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