State of Wisconsin Proposes Raising Speed Limits

The Wis­con­sin Depart­ment of Trans­porta­tion reports that traf­fic deaths have fallen sig­nif­i­cantly this year. At the same time this new infor­ma­tion was released the Wis­con­sin State Assem­bly passed a bill to raise Wisconsin’s max­i­mum speed limit to 70 miles per hour from the cur­rent 65 MPH limit.

Aside from the debates about which roads will see speed limit increases and which roads will not, the Wis­con­sin Depart­ment of Trans­porta­tion released data say­ing that 398 peo­ple had died in traf­fic acci­dents in the state this year as of the end of Sep­tem­ber, which accord­ing to the DOT and the Apple­ton Post-Crescent is a decrease of 80 deaths from that point in 2012. David Pabst, direc­tor of the state bureau of trans­porta­tion safety says that has a lot to do with a drop in motor­cy­cle acci­dents and fatalities.

Speed limit raises have always been a thorny issue in the side of pub­lic safety; accord­ing to one study done by the Iowa Depart­ment of Trans­porta­tion, four states that increased lim­its above 65 MPH saw a 7% to 13% increase in traf­fic deaths in the first eight years after rais­ing their lim­its. The Wis­con­sin bill had plenty of oppo­nents as well. “You want to make our roads safer, you want to recon­sider this. Speed does kill, Mr. Speaker,” said Rep. Brett Hulsey of Madi­son. A num­ber of truck­ing com­pa­nies oppose rais­ing the limit for safety as well as eco­nomic and gas con­sump­tion con­cerns. “We oppose it for fuel mileage and safety rea­sons,” said Susan Deetz of Marten Trans­port in Mon­dovi in an inter­view with the Eau Claire Leader-Telegram.

Should the law pass the state sen­ate and be signed by Gov­er­nor Walker, Wis­con­sin would be the last state in the Upper Mid­west to allow 70 MPH speed lim­its after Illi­nois passed sim­i­lar leg­is­la­tion ear­lier this year rais­ing their speed lim­its from 65 to 70. Min­nesota and Iowa have had 70 MPH lim­its since the late 1990s, and Michi­gan since the mid-2000s.

Each state has slightly dif­fer­ent appli­ca­tions of their max­i­mum speed laws though; for exam­ple in Min­nesota only rural Inter­state high­ways are allowed to be posted at 70 MPH; Wisconsin’s law would allow any road Inter­state or not that is deemed suit­able by engi­neers to be posted at 70 MPH to be done as such. A prime can­di­date for a road to be given a 70 MPH limit in the North­land would be US High­way 53 south­east of Supe­rior, which cur­rently car­ries a 65 MPH limit as a divided express­way; the road also car­ries sparse traf­fic and is almost entirely a rural route. In com­par­i­son, local high­ways that would not be suit­able to be raised to 70 MPH are Wis­con­sin High­way 35 south of Supe­rior and US High­way 2 east of Supe­rior, because they are two-lane undi­vided high­ways. Those roads will likely remain at their cur­rent 55 MPH limits.

Spe­cific areas such as the Blat­nik Bridge and the Bong Bridge would also likely not be changed from their cur­rent 55 MPH lim­its because these areas are not engi­neered to carry a high speed limit and they are both located in urban areas.

Image cour­tesy of David Lofink
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