The Washington State Department of Transportation, Washington State Patrol and Washington Traffic Safety Commission say they will not raise the speed limit from 70 to 75 mph because of safety concerns.
SPOKANE — The state decided Wednesday it will not raise the speed limit to 75 mph along rural portions of Interstate 90 in Eastern Washington.
The Washington State Department of Transportation, Washington State Patrol and Washington Traffic Safety Commission said they have decided against the proposal because of safety concerns.
“Our top priority as agencies is traffic safety,” said Roger Millar, acting secretary of transportation. “We made this decision through a lens of safety, and it’s notable that all three agencies agreed the increased safety risks were too high.”
The agencies considered increasing the speed limit from 70 to 75 mph along about 100 miles of I-90, from the town of George to the Lincoln/Spokane County line. That stretch of freeway runs through the sparsely populated Columbia Basin.
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The increased risks and costs associated with the proposed change far outweighed the projected time savings, the agencies found.
Their analysis predicted an additional 1.27 fatal or serious crashes annually if the speed limit were raised. A higher speed limit also would bring an estimated $8.3 million in additional annual safety costs, the analysis found.
Raising the speed limit to 75 mph would save just an estimated five minutes on a 100-mile trip, with an estimated annual value of $3.6 million in time saved, the agencies said.
“Our state’s Target Zero Plan aims to reduce traffic deaths and serious injuries to zero by 2030,” said Darrin Grondel, director of the Washington Traffic Safety Commission, “We believe this decision supports this goal.”
The review was done at the request of Eastern Washington legislators. A law passed in 2015 allowed for an increase if it’s deemed safe.
The three agencies began their study in August, using analysis of available traffic and engineering data as well as input from the public. Public meetings were held in Ritzville and Moses Lake, two communities that would have been impacted by the faster speeds, in April.
Numerous states allow speeds of 75 mph on rural stretches of interstate highways. Montana, Nevada, Wyoming, Texas, Idaho, Utah and South Dakota allow top speeds of 80 mph on some roads.