Archive for Thursday, April 15, 2004

K-10 drivers could do 75 if speed limit changes include highway

April 15, 2004

It is not yet known if bills in the Kansas Legislature that would raise speed limits on sections of the state's freeways would apply to Kansas Highway 10.
Both the House and Senate are considering bills that would include raising the speed limit on "rural freeways" from the current 70 mph to 75 mph. As a four-lane highway with controlled access interchange, K-10 fits the freeway definition.
The bills were complicated late in the Legislative session, when riders were attached to what had been bills solely addressing speed limits, said legislative revisor Bruce Kinsey.
Rep. Rob Boyer, R-Olathe, said he understood the bill was meant to apply to the more expansive areas of Interstates 70, 35 and 135. The Kansas Department of Transportation gave a "we'll-get-back-to-you-on-that response" to precisely where the higher speed limit would apply.
KDOT spokeswoman Krista Roberts said the department's traffic engineers would only go through the process of determining where speed limits applied after the bill was signed into law. That process would consider several factors such as accident rate, traffic volume and design capacity, she said.
"No speed limits will be effective until they are posted," she said.KDOT officials testified before the Legislature that the higher speed limits shouldn't be a problem because most accidents occurred when vehicles were traveling at differing rates of speed.
That view wasn't shared by the Kansas Highway Patrol.
"This is not a new issue," said Lt. John Eichkorn of the Kansas Highway Patrol. "We want people to know when you raise the speed limits, you have to accept the possibility of an increase in injury accidents and deaths."
Eichkorn and Hamilton favor the Senate version of the bill because it had a less forgiving buffer. The House bill would allow a 10 mph buffer more than the 75 mph maximum before tickets went on the driving record and thereby affected insurance rates. The Senate bill only allows a 5 mph buffer.
The Legislature reconvenes for a veto session April 28.
Hamilton said that could make the de facto 85 mph on a highway that already had a speedway mentality.
"We write a lot of tickets; we do saturation patrols," he said. "It slows them down for a day or two, and then it's right back to normal."
One of the justifications for the bill was to align Kansas with the neighboring states of Nebraska, Oklahoma and Colorado. It was argued the state was losing tourism money because travelers chose to use I-80 in Nebraska because of its higher speed limit.
"That doesn't make sense," Hamilton said. "Who would drive three hours out of their way so they could drive 5 miles per hour faster?"

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