MADISON — Wisconsin’s four interstates and U.S. 41 to the Fox Valley would be the most likely candidates for a 70 mph speed limit if a proposal to raise the limit became law.
That’s according to a preliminary report from the state Department of Transportation that Republican Assembly Speaker Robin Vos gave to the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel.
Vos has backed a speed limit increase that was proposed Tuesday by Rep. Paul Tittl, R-Manitowoc, but the bill’s prospects are uncertain. Senate Majority Leader Scott Fitzgerald has said he has no plans to bring up the measure soon, and Gov. Scott Walker’s administration has been noncommittal.
Supporters of a 70 mph speed limit say it will save time for tourists and commuters and bring Wisconsin in line with three dozen states that already have higher limits. Illinois raised its speed limit from 65 to 70 mph on Monday.
“Wisconsin will soon be the only state in the Midwest still at 65. Given the actions by other states, DOT officials were wise to begin researching this issue,” Vos said in a statement. “We are committed to keeping Wisconsin’s roads safe, and this proposal allows the Wisconsin Department of Transportation to reduce the speed limit where necessary.”
Two Democratic lawmakers — Rep. Penny Bernard Schaber, of Appleton, and Sen. Tim Carpenter, of Milwaukee — said they were concerned that raising the limit could lead to more crashes and deaths. Schaber, a retired physical therapist, said many of her former clients had been injured in accidents and she wanted to hear more about the potential risks with a higher speed limit.
“We need to do this carefully. I’m not saying no. I’m not saying I approve of it,” she said.
The DOT report said Interstates 39, 43, 90 and 94 have fewer crashes than the state’s other four-lane highways divided by a median, and there are fewer fatalities on interstates. Four-lane roads divided by medians would be candidates for the higher speed limit.
Work is underway to convert U.S. 41 to an interstate.