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Speed limit boost for I-90 stretch gains traction

OLYMPIA – Washington’s speed limit could rise to 75 mph under proposals being considered by the Legislature.

One bill to raise highway speed limits was fast-tracked through a House committee Thursday and could pave the way for 75 mph signs in some areas of the state.

Sponsored by Rep. Joe Schmick, R-Colfax, the bill would allow the Department of Transportation to raise speed limits 5 mph over the current limit on stretches of highway that the department deems safe.

Schmick said speeding is a problem in urban areas, but drivers could move faster where roads are mostly empty.

“I do think people would appreciate that when traffic is light,” he said.

The House Transportation Committee passed the bill Thursday, the same day it was introduced. It’s a substitute for another bill that fell flat after its first hearing two weeks ago. That bill would have required a 75 mph speed limit on Interstate 90 in rural counties.

In the Senate, a bill to raise the speed limit on I-90 from Ellensburg to the Spokane County line to 75 mph could come to a floor vote in the next few weeks. Sen. Michael Baumgartner, R-Spokane, is the bill’s prime sponsor.

Baumgartner said some stretches of I-90 are clearly suitable for higher speeds, so the Legislature should raise the speed limit.

“I would prefer not to leave the decision solely in the hands of the Department of Transportation,” Baumgartner said.

The department and the Traffic Safety Commission expressed concerns about each proposal, including the potential for injury or death and a greater speed difference between passenger vehicles and trucks, which would still have a 60 mph limit.

Under current law, the department or local authorities can adjust speed limits on any road, but only up to 70 mph.


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