Speed limit increase

Highway speed limits might get an upgrade

Story by Sammi Wendling, Staff Writer

Wisconsin drivers may soon join 19 other states with a 70 mph speed limit, after a Wisconsin Assembly Transportation Committee vote March 3.

The committee approved a plan 14-1 to increase speed limits on Wisconsin freeways and expressways.

Wisconsin speed limits may increase the maximum speed limit to 70 mph, if the bill passes through the Assembly and Senate. Rep. Paul Tittl (R-Manitowoc) introduced the bill.

The committee rejected an amendment to keep the speed limit at 65 mph for commercial motor vehicles.

The Wisconsin State Assembly floor will discuss the act at the end of the month. If it passes, the bill will head to the Senate.

Representative Paul Tittl (R-Manitowoc) drafted the bill and said if passed, the bill will create a more constant traffic flow.

“Highways are safer when traffic is flowing at the same speed,” Tittl said. “Split speeds for commercial vehicles disrupt that flow.”

The current freeway and expressway speed limit is 65 mph.  However, Traffic safety engineers said that the safest speed is what 85 percent of drivers maintain. That 85 percentile reaches above 70 mph on many highway systems in Wisconsin.

“Increasing the speed limit is primarily about safety,” Tittl said. “That change should help to make our interstates and freeways safer.”

There are concerns about raising the speed limit. Those who oppose believe that raising the limit could actually cause more accidents.

About 30 percent of all fatal accidents are speed related, and in those cases the driver was assumed to exceed the speed limits posted, according to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration.

According to an estimate by the Department of Transportation, it likely could cost about $240,000 to replace all the speed limit signs.

Terry Walsh of WisDot Office of Public Affairs said WisDot would not speak out about the bill yet.

“At this time, as the bill works its way through the process, we are not taking a position on the bill.”  Walsh said.