A new proposal to allow for highway speed limits of up to 75 mph was heard and passed in a House Transportation committee meeting Thursday morning.
HB 2181 would allow the Washington State Department of Transportation to raise speed limits in areas throughout the state where safe. It passed out of the Transportation committee 22-3.
Washington State Department of Transportation traffic engineer John Nisbet told the panel that the state would work with other groups to determine which areas in the state would be safe to get a boost in the maximum speed limit.
Right now, in most areas of the state, the maximum speed limit allowed on a state highway is 60 mph, though local authorities may raise it to 70 mph. The bill’s language does not alter the 60 mph speed limit for vehicles heavier than 10,000 pounds, such as semi-trucks and other large vehicles.
The bill differs from another bill that would set a 75 mph speed limit on Interstate 90 through Kittitas, Grant, Lincoln, and Adams counties.
Rep. Ed Orcutt, R-Kalama, said he supported giving WSDOT a chance to explore raising the speed limit.
“At first, I really wanted to have a stick that said, ‘DOT, thou shalt raise it except in certain situations,’ ” he said. “This is a reasonable approach for right now.”
Rep. Marcus Riccelli, D-Spokane, said that he had concerns about the earlier bill, but that he would support 2181.
“It’s prudent to check it out if we can raise [speed limits] if it is safe,” said Riccelli, who also mentioned that he is a frequent motorist on rural I-90.
“A lot of people alongside me are going a little quicker anyway, and I think they’d like to be doing that within the realm of the law.”