Driving in a fast car? Idaho lawmakers to consider 80 mph

January 29, 2014 

Texas and Utah are the only states with a speed limit of 80 mph on some highways. Idaho could be next.

FLIKR USER WWOOTTON1

Following Utah’s lead? Driving last summer in Utah, Idaho Senate Majority Leader Bart Davis said he noticed 80 mph limits on some rural interstates. Utah and Texas are alone in allowing speeds faster than 75 mph.

When’s the action? Davis plans to introduce a bill by next week. The measure calls for the Idaho Transportation Department to decide what 65 mph highways are suited for travel at 70 mph and what 75 mph stretches are fit for 80 mph.

Prospects? Senate President Pro Tem Brent Hill and House Speaker Scott Bedke like the idea, but Gov. Butch Otter hasn’t been consulted. Hill said Tuesday that he gives the measure “a good chance of passage” because raising speed limits always brings a smile to a constituent’s face.

A lead foot? Though he drives a 12-cylinder BMW, Davis hasn’t had a speeding ticket since 1993. Said Davis, 58, “I drive like an old man.”

More details on proposed speed limit hike

Hill broke the news Tuesday about a move to raise speed limits as a sweetener in a lunch talk he gave to the Idaho Society of Association Executives.

Hill said Davis had given him permission to tout his plan to increase highway speed limits on some stretches by 5 mph.

"You know when everyone breaks their smile?" the Rexburg Republican said at the close of his opening remarks Tuesday. "When I tell them we're also looking at increasing the speed limit on freeways up to 80 miles an hour."

Bedke, who spoke after Hill, added that the Davis bill would require that the Idaho Transportation Department determine that highway design is adequate to handle the higher speeds, up to 75 mph on state highways and 80 mph on interstates.

"We'll punt a lot of that science to ITD and their studies," said Bedke, R-Oakley. "There are areas where that would be OK and areas where that would not be OK."

Davis, R-Idaho Falls, said ITD's studies have been recently updated and no additional engineering expense would be associated with reviewing highways suitable for higher speeds. Davis added that heavy truck speeds would remain 10 miles per hour lower than automobiles under his proposal.

In his first draft, Davis said, he only covered interstate highways. After discussing it with colleagues, he said he was urged by several to include state highways.

In preparing to present the bill to the Senate Transportation Committee, Davis has researched the last time interstate speeds were boosted to 75 mph in the 1990s. The Senate vote was 28-7, the House vote was 56-12.

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