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Iowa may raise speed limits

BY GIBSON BERGLUND | JANUARY 28, 2011 7:10 AM

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Driving in Iowa may get a little faster this year — and maybe a little more dangerous — thanks to a bill proposed by Sen. Steve Kettering, R-Lake View, that would raise the speed limit on two-lane state highways.

Currently set at 55 mph for such roads, the bill proposes to raise that speed limit to 60 mph. Though the change has been rejected in past years, the Transportation Committee is reconsidering it this legislative season.

“It makes sense,” Kettering said. “It’s a common-sense bill.”

Johnson County Sheriff Lonny Pulkrabek said he neither endorses nor opposes the bill, though he said a higher speed limit comes with added danger.

“It likely would lead to additional crashes and the possibility of each crash being worse,” he said.

The current speed limits are the result of the Emergency Highway Energy Conservation Act, a nationwide Congressional mandate enacted in 1974, according to the Energy Citations Database.

Intended to reduce fuel consumption during the oil embargo of the 1970s, the law was repealed in 1995, allowing states to set their own speed limits, but Iowa officials chose to keep the statewide limits at 55 mph for two-lane highways.

“Iowans have already voted to raise the speed limit,” said Kettering, referring to the high number of speed-limit violations on Iowa highways. “They do it every time they step out their doors and into their cars.”

Though similar bills were met with resistance in past years, Kettering said the opposition to the bill has been marginal this year.

“The folks who always wave the banner of ‘you’ll kill 10 more people’ are still putting up resistance,” he said.

Pulkrabek said he wishes each state highway could be assessed for its own speed limit because 60 mph might be safe on some roads but not on others.

“I would want the Department of Transportation to have the input on specific highways and roads, but unfortunately I don’t think that will happen,” he said.

Iowa City natives Randy and Susan Endresajk, who often drive between Iowa City, North Liberty, and the Quad Cities, said they feel a 5 mph increase would have little effect on state highways.

“Most people go 5 over, anyway,” said Randy Endresajk. “It won’t do too much.”

A major question raised by the bill is whether a higher speed limit would reduce speeding violations or simply allow people to speed faster.

“[Most drivers are] always going to be a few miles per hour higher than the posted speed limit,” Pulkrabek said.


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