Government

Measure would raise Iowa interstate speed limit to 75 mph

Proposal prompts highway safety concerns

Traffic travels on Interstate 80, seen from Half Moon Ave SW south of Tiffin on Monday, Jan. 25, 2016. (Liz Martin)
Traffic travels on Interstate 80, seen from Half Moon Ave SW south of Tiffin on Monday, Jan. 25, 2016. (Liz Martin)
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DES MOINES — Should drivers be allowed to go an extra 5 mph on Iowa’s interstates?

That’s a question introduced to Iowa legislators this week in a proposal that would raise Iowa’s interstate highway speed limit from 70 to 75 mph.

However, some state officials point to safety concerns as one reason to leave interstate speeds alone. They point out that highway traffic fatalities increased 27 percent last year in Iowa.

“Any time we’re looking at raising the speed limit, there is that concern that there would be more crashes. And as the speed increases, the crashes would be more severe,” said Tim Crouch, state traffic engineer with the Iowa Department of Transportation.

The Iowa Department of Transportation doesn’t typically take sides regarding legislation, but Crouch said safety is a top priority for the department.

Sen. Brad Zaun, R-Urbandale, who introduced the bill, could not be immediately reached for comment Tuesday, but said Monday in Des Moines the proposal is worth discussing.

“I travel a lot, and I thought it was just worthy of having a conversation,” he said.

He noted the bill stalled in recent sessions but “there’s been a change in command” with Republicans now in control of the Iowa Senate, so “I thought I’d give it another shot.”

Patrick Hoye, bureau chief with the Governor’s Traffic Safety Bureau, said the bureau also doesn’t usually weigh in on legislation, but said increased speed is a factor in highway crashes.

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“Speed is the No. 1 causation of crashes in the state, so obviously that’s always a concern,” Hoye said.

Iowa had 403 traffic deaths last year, up from 316 in 2015 and the most since 2008. The increase ended a four-year downward trend in road fatalities in the state.

State officials, including those with the traffic safety bureau and Iowa State Patrol, said distracted driving, impaired driving and driving at excessive speeds are concerns.

Senate Transportation Committee Chairman Tim Kapucian, R-Keystone, said he expects a subcommittee to meet on Zaun’s proposal but did not give the bill much of a chance.

“There are a lot of people that don’t want it raised,” Kapucian said. “There’s quite a bit of leeway now in how fast you can go. I don’t know if we want to go there.”

l Comments: (319) 339-3175; mitchell.schmidt@thegazette.com

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