February 04, 2010

Playing Catch-Up

The great Commonwealth of Virginny takes one step closer to recognizing reality.

The Virginia House and Senate moved Tuesday to raise the maximum interstate speed limit from 65 to 70 miles per hour, passing a measure backed by Gov. Bob McDonnell to speed traffic on wide-open stretches of highway.

The identical bills passed by wide margins in both chambers. Proponents argued the change would result in shorter travel times for motorists, with many roads already designed to safely handle greater speeds. Officials expect the higher limit part of McDonnell's transportation plan to apply to rural sections of interstates and not in the traffic-choked corridors of Northern Virginia. Each proposed increase would require a Virginia Department of Transportation engineering study before being put in place.

Critics said the change would hurt gas mileage, make roads more dangerous and do nothing to address Virginia's transportation funding crisis. Others took a wait-and-see approach. AAA Mid-Atlantic is "of two minds" on the legislation, said spokesman Lon Anderson. "We know people want to speed, speeding is popular, nobody wants to do 60, 65 if they can do 70," Anderson said. "That said, we have so many people on the road, and we have so many distractions on the road, the question becomes, Will higher speed limits translate into more fatalities and make the roads more dangerous?"

The governor called the legislation an "important proposal to speed up traffic in rural and less populated sections of Virginia."

State Sen. Creigh Deeds McDonnell's opponent in the 2009 election for the second straight day delivered a fiery floor speech criticizing GOP legislation.

"This is one more bill that does nothing to fix the problems we have," Deeds said. The higher speed limit could result in more reckless-driving arrests, which can still be triggered by driving more than 80 mph. That leaves speeders with a smaller window between a simple traffic ticket and a far more serious charge.

The truth of the matter is that traveling the highways of the Old Dominion at 65 mph is an invitation to get rear-ended. The average speed on I-95 is already somewhere between 75 and 80 mph. (Ditto for I-81, with the added possibility of getting a logging truck up your tailpipe if you dawdle.)

Indeed, one of the famous South of the Border billboards that has always tickled me says, "No, Virginia, 95 Is Not The Speed Limit!"

Posted by Robert at February 4, 2010 10:01 AM | TrackBack

The One would have had my vote if only he had promised to use stimulus money to widen I-95 between Dale City and Fredericksburg. I don't drive it that often, but the traffic in that corridor is ridiculous.

Posted by: ChrisN at February 4, 2010 07:08 PM
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