75 MPH bill cruises out of committee

The measure next heads to the full Legislature.

Bangor Daily News file photo

The Legislature is considering a bill that would allow Maine to raise the speed limit to 75 MPH on some sections of the interstates.

The Legislature’s Transportation Committee agreed to the legislation, LD 654, after lawmakers on the panel sought assurances that the bill’s passage wouldn’t automatically lead to increased speed limits throughout the state, especially in congested areas.

Nina Fisher, the Department of Transportation’s legislative liaison, said the transportation commissioner would change the speed limit on a section of highway only after the department conducts a thorough engineering analysis and secures approval from the chief of the Maine State Police.

“I can say with 100 percent certainty the commissioner is not going raise the speed limit to 75 through Portland,” Fisher told committee members.

The bill would not apply to the Maine Turnpike, where the transportation commissioner doesn’t have the authority to set speed limits.

During debate on the bill, lawmakers raised concerns that increased speeds diminish fuel economy and that high-speed crashes are more dangerous than accidents that happen at lower speeds.

“I’m a little suspect of human nature. I think if you set it at 75, they’re going to go 85. If you set it at 85, they’re going to go 95,” said Rep. Wayne Werts, D-Auburn. “I’m not sure I want the aging population going 75 mph down the highway.”

As originally written, the speed limit bill would grant the state transportation commissioner authority to raise the speed limit to 75 mph only on Interstate 295, which runs from Scarborough to West Gardiner. The bill’s sponsor, Rep. Justin Chenette, D-Saco, suggested amending his bill to allow the transportation commissioner authority to raise the speed limit to 75 mph on all interstate highways in Maine.

At a public hearing earlier this month, Chenette cited U.S. Department of Transportation research that showed speed limit changes have little effect on drivers’ travel speeds. In addition, the same research showed the number of accidents decreased in experimental areas where researchers raised the speed limit and increased in areas where the speed limit was lowered.

A representative from AAA Northern New England raised concerns about safety hazards from raising the speed limit.

LD 654 comes about two years after the Legislature allowed the speed limit on I-95 between Old Town and Houlton to rise to 75 mph. That speed limit change took effect in the fall of 2011.

Rep. Beth Turner, R-Burlington, said she hasn’t noticed a change in driving speeds on that stretch of highway since the speed limit increased.

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Comments

 's picture

Speed Limit

I remember when I was younger and just learning to drive, in the early to mid 70's, all of Maine turnpike speeds were 75 M.P.H.. Vehicles are much safer now than they were back then. So what is the big deal now, and not then? The vast majority of persons on the turnpike generally go faster than the posted speed anyway.

ERNEST LABBE's picture

Being an old Geezar

Being an old Geezar who was 14 when that red truck was newremembers a few things.

1) When that 59 truck was new it could have legally been drive on the interstates any where in the state at 70 MPH.

2) When that truck was new it came with bias ply tires which were the finest thing in tires.

3) It also came with drum brakes on all wheels because those were state of the art.

4) It had a steering box not rack and pinion steering wich is pretty much the norm these days.

5) Seat belts and airbags were not an option.

6) There were no crush areas built into the structure of the vehicle. It was you and the tree at whatever speed, and the tree always won hands down.

Todays vehicles are far superior to the junk that was available when I was a young driver

Therefore I see no problem with us old geezers or anyone else driving the interstates at 75 MPH.

 's picture

Speed Limit

I remember when I was younger and just learning to drive, in the early to mid 70's, all of Maine turnpike speeds were 75 M.P.H.. Vehicles are much safer now than they were back then. So what is the big deal now, and not then? The vast majority of persons on the turnpike generally go faster than the posted speed anyway.

PAUL ST JEAN's picture

"I'm not sure I want the

"I'm not sure I want the aging population doing 75 mph down the highway."
Believe me Mr. Werts, the 'aging population', as you so discriminatingly referred to them, are not the ones you need to worry about. You might shift your focus of concern to the real problem drivers; the drunks, dopers, texters, and just plain dopes. Those are the ones who are like to be doing 85 in a 75 mph zone; not the geezers.

Noel Foss's picture

Agreed.

Young idiots playing with their cell phones are a lot more dangerous than the retired folks who don't have one. People who screw around with their phones while they're supposed to be driving is one of my biggest pet peeves when I'm on the road (especially as a motorcyclist), and most of the ones I see doing it are from my generation.

JERRY ARIPEZ's picture

Bagger has Radar senses

Rep. Beth Turner, R-Burlington, said she hasn’t noticed a change in driving speeds on that stretch of highway since the speed limit increased. All based on her driving the road all day long.

She must have radar senses in her eyes using her SWAG...Scientific Wild Ass Guess...

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