Eye On Boise

Senate backs 80 mph top speed for rural interstate stretches that ITD picks

The Senate has voted 30-4 in favor of legislation to let the Idaho Transportation Department increase the top speed limit on some rural stretches of interstate to 80 mph. The bill, SB 1284a, also would let top speeds rise on some sections of state highway from 65 to 70 mph. Senate Majority Leader Bart Davis, R-Idaho Falls, said ITD would have to do engineering and traffic studies, and its board would have to find the change in the public interest to raise those top speeds on any section of road. The bill still needs House passage and the governor’s signature to become law.

Davis said a three-year experiment in Utah found that when some segments in that state were raised to 80 mph, safety didn’t suffer and actual traffic speeds didn’t change much. “There are safeguards in this bill,” said Senate Transportation Chairman Bert Brackett, R-Rogerson. “I would hope that we could speed this bill along.”

Utah is the only state with 80 mph as its maximum speed, though Texas sets it even higher, at 85 mph. Sen. Chuck Winder, R-Boise, said, “I’m going to support this bill because I think it’s important to realize that we really haven’t changed any speed limits. It’s still up to the board, still up to the department … before any of this changes. I think it’ll add to safety, it’ll add to the traveling convenience of the public.”

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Betsy Z. Russell
Betsy Russell covers Idaho news from the state capitol in Boise and writes the Eye on Boise blog.

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