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Legislature test driving 70 mph speed limit bill

A bill that might aid drivers pushing the speed limit a bit traveled through the Wyoming Senate and was parked in a House committee for consideration today (Tuesday).

Introduced by Sen. Hank Coe, R-Cody, Senate File 57 would raise the posted speed limit in 65 mph zones to 70 on some highways, if the Wyoming Department of Transportation deems it safe based on engineering and traffic analysis.

It passed the Senate Jan. 22 and was referred to a House committee Jan. 25.

Wyoming has some less-traveled two lane highways that could allow 70 mph speeds, such as Wyo. 120 between Meeteetse and Thermopolis, Wyo. 120 north to the Montana border or U.S. 14-A’s new four-lane between Cody and Powell, said Coe in an email Sunday.

On the Senate floor last month, Coe also referenced Wyo. 20-26 between Casper and Shoshoni. He deadpanned that his car “knows the way” and that he just lets it go, hinting he might travel over the 65 mph limit on the stretch.

“This is a good little bill, and I thought long and hard about it: I don’t have a conflict of interest,” he said, to laughter from his colleagues.

The acting president of the Senate joked the bill was intended to save Coe’s driver’s license.

“This bill probably would have no effect on how I drive, anyways,” parried Coe. “So it won’t save the license.”

Cody Beers, spokesperson for the Wyoming Department of Transportation, theorized the bill was written because people want to get from point A to point B a little quicker.

Raising the speed limit would require more work and money on the department’s part. Employees would have to alter 65 mph signs to 70 mph signs. And the department would have to monitor those 70 mph roads to determine over time whether the increased speed is safe, Beers said.

“This bill just gives WYDOT the discretion, if they so choose, to up some of these roads to 70,” Coe said. “Nothing in the bill says that they have to.”

The department would have to keep higher speeds in mind when designing new highways. For example, slopes on highway shoulders would need to be gentler and highways wider to accommodate greater speeds, Beers said.

All of Montana’s two lane highways are 70 mph. Some stretches on Interstate 80 and I-15 in Utah allow 80 mph, Coe said.

From Powell to Cody, a motorist may save a minute or two. A driver might cut 10 or 15 minutes making the 160-mile drive from Powell to Riverton. “That’s a ball park figure,” Beers said.

The House Transportation, Highways and Military Affair Committee will consider the bill today (Tuesday), Coe said.

While addressing the Senate, Coe said there’d been indications WYDOT might not pay much attention to the bill if it passes, given the department’s current budget crunch.

(CJ Baker contributed reporting to this story.)

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3 comments

  • posted by Alan

    February 14, 2013 2:13 pm

    This is nothing new. I believe there were two-lane highways posted at 70 mph in Wyoming before 1974. I had hoped the legislature would make this change before considering an 80 mph limit on interstates. I would also urge Wyoming motorists to demand the repeal of the recent law imposing a 55 mph limit on unpaved county roads. Kansas State University research found such a law has no effect on actual travel speeds.

  • posted by KodyCoyote

    February 12, 2013 5:23 pm

    Coe says that he didn't have a conflict of interest in this bill. How about the bill he proposed to can Hill. That was DEFINITELY a conflict of interest.

  • posted by Salty Dawg

    February 12, 2013 2:28 pm

    Wyoming people ignore the speed limits now,WTH will they do if the limit is raised to 70? This is about as asinine a thing that Coe has come up with,other than the witch hunt for Hill.But...you people voted for this clown so deal with his BS.

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