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Debate begins on raising rural highway speed limits, with resolution unlikely before next year

An interstate highway in Indiana, as seen from an overpass.
Lauren Chapman
/
IPB News
A proposal from Rep. Ben Smaltz (R-Auburn) would increase the speed limit to 75 miles per hour on Indiana interstates and highways in rural areas.

An Indiana lawmaker kickstarted a debate Tuesday about increasing the speed limit on interstates and highways to 75 miles per hour in rural areas.

Rep. Ben Smaltz (R-Auburn) acknowledged his bill heard in a House committee, HB 1308, is just the start of a conversation that could last until next session.

He said improvements in cars and their technology is prompting the discussion.

“We have sensors,” Smaltz said. “The steering is so much tighter, the cars are so much better, the engineering is so much better.”

READ MORE: How do I follow Indiana’s legislative session? Here’s your guide to demystify the process

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Toby Randolph is a civil engineer, representing the American Council of Engineering Companies. He said increasing speed limits should be a data-driven decision.

Randolph pointed to a study out of Michigan, which raised speed limits on some freeways to 75 miles per hour in 2017.

“Generally coincided with increases in both frequency and severity of crashes,” Randolph said.

The Indiana Department of Transportation also testified against the bill, noting that average speeds have increased every year since 2018.

Brandon is our Statehouse bureau chief. Contact him at bsmith@ipbs.org or follow him on Twitter at @brandonjsmith5.

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Brandon Smith has covered the Statehouse for Indiana Public Broadcasting for more than a decade, spanning three governors and a dozen legislative sessions. He's also the host of Indiana Week in Review, a weekly political and policy discussion program seen and heard across the state. He previously worked at KBIA in Columbia, Missouri and WSPY in Plano, Illinois. His first job in radio was in another state capitol - Jefferson City, Missouri - as a reporter for three stations around the Show-Me State.