Local News

State proposes increases in legal interstate speed limits

speed limits Washington drivers could experience slightly increased legal speed limits on the state's interstate freeways by early this spring under a proposal released recently.
   The Washington State Department of Transportation (WSDOT), in coordination with the Washington State Patrol (WSP) and the Washington Traffic Safety Commission (WTSC), developed a proposal which, if adopted, would affect a total of 760 miles of interstate highways in the state.
   The proposal is based on traffic studies conducted over the past several months in response to the repeal of the federal maximum speed limit. The proposed legal limits would increase maximum legal speeds on most of the state's interstates by five miles per hour.
   Interstates affected by the proposal include I-5 from Vancouver to Blaine, I-405 from Tukwila to near Lynnwood, I-90 from Seattle to the Idaho border, I-82 from Ellensburg to the Oregon border, I-205 in Clark County, and I-182 in the Tri-Cities.
   Speeds on interstates through the state's more densely-populated areas would be limited to 60 mph. Legal limits of 70 mph would be posted on interstates in the more rural areas of the state, including much of Eastern Washington.
   The work to reassess legal speed limits on Washington's interstates began last fall in anticipation of the repeal of the federal speed limit law. WSDOT's regional traffic engineers began the assessment in consultation with regional representatives of the State Patrol.
   Factors taken into consideration in developing the proposal included: prevailing vehicle speeds (or the 85th percantile speed); phsyical features of the highway (Washington's interstates were designed to accommodate the proposed speeds); traffic volumes (congestion); segment accident histories; enforcement; and air quality.
   Public comments on the proposal can be made by phone, fax, mail, e-mail, or via the Internet:   Washington state law establishes a 60 mph basic speed for state highways. Both decreases and increases to that basic speed are authorized by law, but both must be based on engineering and traffic investigations by WSDOT.
   State law also mandates a maximum speed of 70 mph, with the exception of vehicles over 10,000 pounds gross weight (large trucks) and vehicles in combination (trucks with trailers, for example). Their maximum speed is 60 mph.