OLYMPIA – Legislation that could raise highway speed limits to 75 mph in some parts of Washington was signed into law Wednesday by Gov. Jay Inslee.
The bill, which will take effect in July, authorizes the state Department of Transportation to raise speed limits above the previous 70 mph cap in areas where studies show doing so would be “reasonable and safe.”
In his first veto of 2015, Inslee struck out one section of the bill that presumed that the increases would be reasonable in at least some locations. Inslee stressed that without a recommendation from traffic safety officials, the speed limit won’t go up.
The Department of Transportation will work with the Traffic Safety Commission and the Washington State Patrol to study whether the speed limit could be raised without compromising safety.
“Although the number of speeding-involved crashes is declining … there are still far too many people dying on our roadways,” Inslee said. “We need to really know what the research shows, we need to know what the safety risks are, before we make that kind of decision.”
The Traffic Safety Commission reported that 170 people died and at least 438 people were seriously injured in more than 18,000 crashes that involved speeding in 2013.
Republicans Rep. Joe Schmick of Colfax and Sen. Michael Baumgartner of Spokane, sponsored the legislation.
Baumgartner said Inslee’s veto does not appear to affect the intent of the legislation.
He added that Department of Transportation officials assured legislators working on the bill there are likely portions of I-90 where 75 mph speed limits would be reasonable.
One stretch that seems particularly likely is from Ritzville to Moses Lake, he said.
The Legislature likely could override the veto since the bills were approved by more than two-thirds votes in both chambers, but that may not be necessary as long as Inslee is committed to a “good-faith” effort to study areas where 75 mph would make sense, Baumgartner said.
“The overwhelming majority of the Legislature in a bipartisan fashion feels that there likely are areas of the interstate where the speed limit can safely be increased to 75 mph,” he said.
Earlier on Wednesday, Inslee delivered a speech in recognition of Earth Day, when people around the world shed light on environmental issues. Faster vehicles would burn more gas and create more carbon pollution – a key concern of Inslee’s – but his concerns with raising the speed limit are mostly about road safety, he said.
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