Topeka Motorists on some stretches of Kansas highway could see higher speed limits -- but might want to pay them special heed -- under legislation passed by the Senate and sent to the House on Thursday.
The bill would let the Department of Transportation raise the speed limit to 75 mph on divided highways that have at least four lanes and a current limit of 70 mph.
Officials have said the department probably will go to 75 mph only on rural sections of Kansas' interstates and leave the speed limit on freeways in urban areas unchanged. Highways that lack medians or barriers would not qualify.
Supporters contend the higher speed limit would make Kansas more attractive to those motorists who, they say, avoid Kansas and travel through Nebraska so they can drive 75 mph on Interstate 80.
"For Americans, it seems important to save time and money," Sen. Robert Tyson, R-Parker, said after the 29-11 vote on the bill. "It's perceived that going around Kansas saves both."
Tyson and others said they doubted that accidents would rise in 75 mph zones, because another section of the bill could hit speeders in the wallet.
Under current law, speeding tickets -- which affect insurance rates -- are only noted on a driver's record if he or she is caught going at least 10 mph above a posted limit of 55 mph or higher.
The legislation would narrow that "buffer" to just 5 mph in 75 mph zones. Supporters said that means Kansans will continue to drive 79 mph or 80 mph, whether the posted speed limit is 70 mph or 75 mph.
Senate Minority Leader Anthony Hensley, who voted against the bill, rejected that argument.
"Any time you raise the speed limit, it endangers motorists and makes our highways much less safe," said Hensley, D-Topeka.
House Transportation Committee Chairman Gary Hayzlett, R-Lakin, predicted there would be little House opposition to the bill, which Tyson described partly as a pro-business measure.
Tyson said I-80 carries 50 percent more traffic than I-70 in Kansas, resulting in more truck stops, restaurants and entertainment sites. He said people traveling from states east of Kansas have an incentive to detour around the state because most western states have 75 mph speed limits.
"We need to do this for economic development for Kansas," Tyson said.
But Sen. Stan Clark said the bill would encourage motorists to use interstates instead of two-lane highways that go through small towns.
"It will consolidate the businesses along four-lane highways to the detriment of other communities," said Clark, R-Oakley.
Speed limit is SB 384.
On the Net:
Kansas Legislature: http://www.kslegislature.org