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Now that Governor Walker has signed a 70 mph speed limit bill, the Wisconsin Department of Transportation (WisDOT) will oversee installation of about 470 new speed limit and related signs along 726 miles of rural Interstate in Wisconsin. Motorists are advised the 70 mph speed limit will not take effect until a specific highway segment is posted at the higher speed. Drivers are asked to be alert, to slow down and move over for county highway crews as they install the new signs along rural Interstates beginning next month.
“The safety of all travelers and roadside workers remains our department’s top priority,” said WisDOT Secretary Mark Gottlieb. “Our Interstates have an outstanding safety record, but only when motorists do their part by travelling at the appropriate speed, buckling-up, driving sober and staying alert.”
WisDOT is reminding motorists:
• Posted speed limits apply when travel conditions are ideal. State law requires drivers to adjust their speed to what is “reasonable and prudent” based on travel conditions. Factors such as snow, rain, construction or heavy traffic require reduced speeds.
• The state’s Move Over Law requires drivers to slow down or move over any time they see highway maintenance vehicles, law enforcement, other emergency responders or tow trucks stopped along the highway with warning lights flashing. Violations can result in a $263 citation.
Local rural Interstate segments where speed limits will be raised to 70 mph will be:
• I-94 from I-90 in Monroe County to US 53 in Eau Claire County (77 miles)
• I-94 from WIS 312 in Eau Claire County to WIS 35 in St. Croix County (55 miles)
Other segments can be found at http://www.dot.wisconsin.gov/news/releases/299-co-exec.htm
Along with rural Interstates, the recently-approved state legislation provides WisDOT the authority to increase the speed limit to 70 mph along certain multi-lane highways with access limited to interchanges. The department is still reviewing freeway segments to consider for posting at 70 mph.
A brief history of speed limits in Wisconsin:
• Prior to 1947, it was unlawful to operate a vehicle “carelessly and heedlessly” with “wanton disregard” of the safety of others.
• In 1949, state law specified a 65 mph speed limit during daytime hours, 55 mph at night, and 45 mph for trucks.
• In 1962, as more of the Interstate system was completed, speed limits on Interstate highways were set at 70 mph during daylight hours, 60 mph at night and 55 mph for trucks.
• In 1973, as an energy conservation measure, the U.S. Congress adopted a national maximum speed limit of 55 mph.
• In 1987, Congress allowed states to adopt a 65 mph speed limit on rural Interstates.
• In 1996, state law extended the 65 mph speed limit to certain freeways and expressways.