Legislative committees are considering bills that would allow the Kansas Department of Transportation to raise the state’s highest speed limit on separated, multiple-lane highways from 75 to 80 miles per hour.
The Wichita Eagle reports that lawmakers could decide next week if one of the bills will go to the full Kansas House of Representatives.
The new limit would bring the state in line with several other sparsely populated, largely rural Western states. The Insurance Institute for Highway Safety says Idaho, Montana, Nevada, South Dakota, Utah and Wyoming have a maximum speed limit of 80 miles per hour.
Republican state Rep. John Bradford said the change would help regulations match reality, since many travelers drive faster in open country.
“Most of the traffic clearly flows at around 85 miles an hour,” Bradford said by phone, as he happened to be driving on Interstate 70 toward Kansas City. “I would tell you right now I’m sitting here driving 85 and I’m just flowing along naturally with traffic.”
“Just don’t tell the Highway Patrol,” he added, laughing.
The transportation department opposes the bill, and it’s unclear whether it would raise the speed limit if the law changes.
The Legislature most recently raised the speed limit to 75 miles per hour in 2011. The transportation department set the new speed limit for 807 miles of roadway as more than 1,000 miles were initially eligible.
Opponents say a higher speed limit could lead to more accidents and make hundreds of miles of interstate more dangerous.
“The severity of those accidents increases significantly with the more speed that you add into it,” said Lt. Adam Winters, spokesman for the Kansas Highway Patrol.