75 mph speed limit green-lighted by Michigan House panel

LANSING, MI — Speed limits on some Michigan freeways could eventually reach 80 miles per hour under a package approved by the House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee Tuesday.

In the first year after enactment, the legislation would raise speed limits to 75 miles per hour on an estimated 600 miles of rural highway stretches, said sponsor Bradford Jacobsen, R-Oxford. He said that would maintain the safety of the roads.

“Most expressways are designed for 5 over, if you would, so they’re designed at 75 miles per hour,” Jacobsen said.

From there the Michigan Department of Transportation and Michigan State Police could study certain stretches for even higher speed limits. Where it’s feasible and safe, they could raise the speed limit to 80 miles per hour.

“While this legislation specifically calls for raising speed limits on certain freeways to 75 mph, we included provisions that also allows for the studying of raising the speed limit to 80 mph in the future,” Jacobsen said.

The legislature has toyed with the idea of raising speed limits for several years. Jacobsen sponsored a similar package in 2014, when some state senators were also considering changes.

Jacobsen said the 75 mile limit would apply to rural and not urban places, where there are few exits and relatively straight stretches. He said possible areas where the speed limit would raise included parts of I-75 north of bay city, parts of I-69 between Flint and Lansing and US-127 North of St. John going toward Grayling. There is not yet a full analysis of where speed limits would raise under the bills.

The bills would also up the speed limit on state trunk lines — the roads with an ‘M’ in front of their numbers — to 60 miles per hour from a current 55 miles per hour speed limit. With further study, MDOT and MSP could raise the speed limit on those roads to 65 miles per hour. The bill also moves the speed limit on gravel roads in counties with over 1 million people down to 45 miles per hour from 55 miles per hour.

Promoters of pedestrian and bicycle use spoke against raising the speed limit on rural roads. Nancy Krupiarz, executive director of the Michigan Trails and Greenways Alliance, said many of these rural roads in context are carrying pedestrians and bicyclists and sometimes connecting them to trails.

“People can come flying over these hills and around these curves and it could be a very perilous journey,” Krupiarz said.

Other bills in the package changed speeds in school zones, removed language that would not have allowed speed limits to be set below the 75th percentile of the speed of free-flowing traffic and change references to points on drivers’ licenses and the state’s insurance code.

The bills were approved by most committee members, although they did receive some dissenting votes. They head next to the House floor.

Note: This story has been updated to reflect that the bill package changes, not lowers, speed limits in school zones.

Read more at: http://www.mlive.com/news/index.ssf/2016/02/bills_to_raise_michigan_speed.html

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