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80 mph speed limit bill clears House panel

Legislation to boost Idaho’s top highway speed to 80 mph for rural stretches of interstate and to 70 mph for two-lane roads has cleared the House Transportation Committee, though five members voted no; the Senate-passed bill would let the Idaho Transportation Department determine which stretches of road are appropriate for the 5 mph boost in top speeds.

Mike Kane, lobbyist for AAA of Idaho, pleaded with the committee to “tap the brakes” and send the bill to the House’s amending order, to push its effective date a year out into the future. “Give us an extra year,” he said. Kane said AAA, which represents motorists, has lots of questions. “One hundred big game animals are killed approximately, every year, by road collisions,” he said. “When are we going so fast that everybody will be over-driving their headlights? We don’t know at this point.” He also raised concerns about big trucks traveling at high speeds, and asked, “Will increased speeds have an effect on road conditions in the long term? … We don’t know what the answer to that is. We’re trying to find that out … have a public conversation. … Let us work with ITD, let us work with the sponsor.”

SB 1284a earlier passed the Senate on a 30-4 vote. “There are roads that are currently designed for these greater rates of speed,” Senate Majority Leader Bart Davis, R-Idaho Falls, told the lawmakers. “The bill is written in a way that life safety, not convenience, life safety was the primary factor.” If the bill wins approval from the full House and the governor signs it into law, it would take effect July 1. There’s no specified date after that by which ITD must decide on whether to change the speed limits on any particular roadway; Rep. JoAn Wood, R-Rigby, noted that the department could decide not to raise the limits anywhere. The bill requires the agency to conduct a traffic and engineering study on the stretch of road in question, and decide based on the public interest.


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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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