, , ,

Bill Would Allow Faster Traffic On Rural Highways

Change Would Raise Speed Limit To 70 On Some Roads


Wisconsin’s Department of Transportation says it would likely raise speed limits to 70 mph on rural interstates and some other four-lane highways under a bill introduced at the state Capitol.

The bill would leave it up to the DOT to decide whether to raise the speed limit to 70 mph on individual roads. Assistant Deputy Transportation Secretary Tom Rhatican said the department would likely do just that on many rural interstates and four-lane freeways with interchanges.

Rhatican said at a public hearing that from what he’s seen in other states, 85 percent of drivers won’t drive any faster.

Stay informed on the latest news

Sign up for WPR’s email newsletter.

This field is for validation purposes and should be left unchanged.

“They’re already driving at their comfortable—this 85th percentile—speed,” he said. “And they really don’t change much. You may have the faster folks maybe push the limit. That’s the 15 percent or so, or the handful or so percent.”

“But like me, they should be wondering where the state patrol’s threshold is,” Rhatican added. “You know, do you feel lucky?”

Manitowoc Republican Rep. Paul Tittl, who’s sponsoring the speed limit bill, says everyone’s seen traffic where faster drivers dart in and out of lanes to maneuver around slower vehicles.

“Just as excessive speed can contribute to accidents, so can a variation of speed among vehicles,” he said.

Tittl said raising the speed limit to 70 mph would make sure more people are driving closer to the same speed, and reduce accidents.

Others aren’t so sure. Marshfield Republican Rep. John Spiros said 18-wheelers are simply more dangerous at higher speeds.

“When you take a look at the stopping distance and everything else, it’s much greater the faster you’re going in a truck than it is a car,” he said.

Spiros voted against a similar bill last session. He said he’ll support it this time if it’s amended to let the DOT keep the 65 mph speed limit for commercial trucks.

Tom Rhatican said the DOT, which is officially taking no position on the bill, would not raise the limit on urban interstates or on four-lane highways without interchanges, where other roadways cross.