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Wisconsin Assembly Approves 70 MPH Speed Limit

MADISON, Wis. — Republicans pushed a bill to raise the speed limit on Wisconsin's interstates to 70 mph through the state Assembly on Tuesday, brushing aside minority Democrats' fears that the change would lead to more serious crashes.

The measure goes next to the state Senate. A spokesman for Majority Leader Scott Fitzgerald, R-Juneau, said a vote could come in that house as early as next month. Gov. Scott Walker hasn't taken a public position on the proposal.

The bill would give the state Department of Transportation six months after the bill becomes law to change interstate speed limits from 65 mph to 70 mph. The agency would have to submit a study within a year on the feasibility of raising the limit to 70 on other four-lane highways to the Legislature.

The Assembly also approved an amendment on a voice vote that would allow the DOT to set a 65 mph limit for commercial vehicles if the agency determines it would improve highway safety. The bill's author, Rep. Paul Tittl, R-Manitowoc, introduced the amendment on the Assembly floor to address last-minute concerns from truckers that the new limit would increase their fuel consumption.

Democrats said the change to 70 mph could lead to serious injuries on the road.

"You want to make our roads safer, you want to reconsider this. Speed does kill, Mr. Speaker," Rep. Brett Hulsey, D-Madison, said.

Rep. Chris Danou, D-Trempealeau, a former police officer, said he knows firsthand higher speeds lead to more severe injuries. He questioned why no one from DOT or the Wisconsin State Patrol spoke at a public hearing on the bill earlier this month, leaving a dearth of information about the dangers of raising the limit.

"I realize this is a politically popular thing to do ... but we don't know the risks," Danou said. "This may be a good idea but the problem I have is relevant experts were not consulted."

Rep. Fred Clark, D-Baraboo, said Green Bay-based trucking company Schneider National sent lawmakers an email Tuesday opposing the increase. The email cited data from the National Cooperative Highway Research Program that showed a 35 percent increase in fatalities in states with a 70 mph limit and said increasing the speed limit to 70 mph would increase fuel consumption.
Tittl defended the measure, noting Wisconsin is the only Midwestern state without a 70 mph limit. He went on to say he didn't know why no one from DOT or the State Patrol spoke about the bill at the hearing but took the lack of comments as a sign neither agency opposes the measure.

Most Wisconsin drivers are already doing 70 mph, he said. The higher limit could defuse frustration with slower drivers, he said.

"If this is something that would make the roads more dangerous, I wouldn't have my name on it," Tittl said.

In the end the Assembly passed the measure 63-32. A half-dozen Democrats joined majority Republicans in voting for the bill.

Wisconsin Assembly Approves 70 MPH Speed Limit Reviewed by Blogs on 12:09 AM Rating: 5

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