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Speed limit increase bill clears Senate committee

Idaho could follow Utah in raising speed limits on some stretches of rural interstate to 80 mph, under legislation that cleared a Senate committee today. Senate Majority Leader Bart Davis, R-Idaho Falls, proposed the bill, which would let ITD decide which stretches of road it should increase the limit on. For state highways, the bill would let ITD raise speeds from a maximum of 65 to a maximum of 70.

“So how much … will this reduce your driving time from Idaho Falls to Boise?” Sen. Les Bock, D-Boise, asked Davis. “Probably not at all,” he replied. “I am one of the people driving home that most cars pass. I still pass semi’s, but I don’t pass a lot of cars.” Davis did ask that his bill be amended, to clarify a section on truck speeds.

Mike Kane, speaking as a lobbyist for the AAA, requested additional amendments, including to delay the bill’s effectiveness for a year. Sen. Marv Hagedorn, R-Meridian, noted that the bill didn’t specify a starting date for the increases; after the bill took effect on July 1, ITD could decide that. “It could be this fall, maybe next year, maybe two or three years from now,” Hagedorn said.

Kane said Utah is the only state that has raised its maximum speed to 80 mph, though Texas is at 85 mph. “It takes an hour and 20 minutes to go 100 miles at 75. At 80, it takes an hour and 15 minutes. So you’re cutting 5 minutes per hundred miles by increasing that – that’s a good thing,” Kane said. AAA just wants to make sure all safety questions are addressed first. “The big issue for AAA is the speed differentials. There are certain trucks that will only go 60, 62 mph because they’re set with governors. So you’re expanding the difference. … What impact will this have on safety?”

Davis said, “Safety is and should always be paramount.” He said, “I do believe, having driven on interstates that have gone to 80 mph, that the speed of the traffic flow doesn’t change remarkably. There’s a certain level where people feel like that’s the speed they feel the most comfortable with. And I doubt that it will have a substantial impact on the rate of speed that people drive.” Instead, he said, for routes suited to high speeds, the bill may just “conform the law to practice.” The Senate Transportation Committee voted unanimously to send the bill to the full Senate for amendments.


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Betsy Z. Russell covers Idaho news from The Spokesman-Review's bureau in Boise.

Named best state-based political blog in Idaho for 2013 by The Fix

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