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Thursday, February 8, 1996 - Page updated at 12:00 AM

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State Releases Plan To Raise Speed Limits

Seattle Times Olympia Bureau

OLYMPIA - State transportation officials released their proposal yesterday to raise the freeway speed limit from 65 to 70 mph on 542 miles of interstate by the end of the year.

And the current speed limit of 55 mph would increase to 60 on 190 miles of freeway and even to 70 on selected short stretches totaling 28 miles statewide.

The DOT will release its final decision within one month, after a public feedback period ends March 1.

Transportation Secretary Sid Morrison said raising the speed limit will not make a significant difference in the way most people already drive.

Morrison said the speed that 85 percent of drivers travel at is safe because people have a "natural tendency" to drive at a reasonable speed.

A study on the stretch of I-5 from Tacoma to Federal Way - a 55-mph zone - showed that 85 percent of drivers traveled at or below 68 mph.

Since officials say higher limits wouldn't significantly change behavior, they don't expect an increase in accidents. Annette Sandberg, State Patrol chief, said the state will monitor the interstates to see whether accidents increase and adjust speed limits if necessary.

Some environmentalists oppose increasing limits because the state would be validating speeds that increase air pollution and energy consumption. But Morrison said that through their actions, people have already decided how they feel about conservation.

To comment on proposed changes to freeway speed limits, write the DOT at P.O. Box 47300, Olympia, WA 98504-7300; or telephone: (360) 705-7075; fax: (360) 705-6806. e-mail: limits@wsdot.wa.gov Internet: http://www.wsdot.wa.gov

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Plan to boost Washington's speed limits

Here is a quick look at Washington's new speed limit plan:

Q. Which freeways are affected?

A. Interstate 5 from border to border, I-90 from Seattle to the Idaho border, I-405 from Tukwila to Lynnwood, I-82 from Ellensburg to the Oregon border, I-205 in Clark County and I-182 in the Tri-Cities.

Q. The new speed limits?

A. In urban areas, the 55 mph will go to 60. In more rural stretches, the current 65 will go to 70. In a few areas, no more than 28 miles statewide, 55 will jump to 70, so watch for signs.

Q. What about trucks?

A. The upper limit stays at 60.

Q. How many miles of freeway are affected?

A. All told, 760. This includes 542 miles going from 65 to 70; 190 miles changing from 55 to 60; and 28 miles going from 55 to 70.

Q. What about other highways?

A. State officials are studying many other roads and will announce higher speeds later this year.

Q. What does the plan mean for safety?

A. Officials insist there should be no increase in collisions or fatalities.

Q. What about air pollution?

A. The state calculates a 1 percent increase in vehicle emissions.

Q. What are the other Western states doing?

A. Montana has no daylight speed limit. California raised its 55 mph limits to 65 on Dec. 8 and went to 70 mph on rural stretches on Jan. 8. Oregon and Idaho lawmakers are discussing changes. Wyoming, Nevada and Utah have raised limits to 75. - Associated Press

Copyright (c) 1996 Seattle Times Company, All Rights Reserved.

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