Six Kansas highways get 75 mph speed limits

06/22/2011 12:00 AM

06/22/2011 7:21 AM

By late next week, your trip to Topeka, Colorado or Oklahoma will be a little faster.

That's when new 75 mph speed limit signs will start appearing on parts of six Kansas highways.

In advance of the new speed limit going into effect July 1, the state on Tuesday identified more than 800 miles of highway where the new speeds will be in place. They are:

* The Kansas Turnpike from Kansas 7 in Wyandotte County to the Oklahoma line.

* I-35 from a spot in southwest Johnson County to U.S. 50 east of Emporia.

* U.S. 69 from southern Johnson County to north of U.S. 54 near Fort Scott in Bourbon County.

* I-70 from just west of Topeka in Shawnee County to the Colorado state line.

* I-135 from I-70 near Salina to a spot north of the 85th Street interchange in Harvey County.

* U.S. 81 from I-70 near Salina north to Kansas 106.

Kansas City driver Dan Lewandowski thought raising the speed limit on I-70 out to the Colorado line was great idea.

"I certainly think you can increase the speed limit on that stretch of highway," he said.

"When you get out to that part of Kansas it's all flat. It's a straight shot. It's not like there's twists and turns. Nothing is going to sneak up on you," Lewandowski said.

The Kansas Legislature readily agreed this year to raise the speed limit to 75 mph on separated multilane highways without much discussion about highway safety.

Rep. Marvin Kleeb, R-Overland Park, pitched it as an economic development tool. His argument: Raise the speed limit and state highways would become more attractive to vacationers and truckers.

But highway safety advocates warned that increasing the speed limit would only reverse the declining trend in highway deaths that Kansas has experienced the last several years.

State Rep. Paul Davis, D-Lawrence, doesn't accept the economic development argument.

"I don't think people are making decisions on what state they're going to drive through based on what the speed limit is," he said. "All the data I have seen shows when you allow people to drive faster, you're going to have more accidents and more fatalities."

The new law authorized the Kansas Department of Transportation to raise the speed limit to 75 mph on about 1,050 miles of eligible highway. The roads designated for the higher speed limit will cover 807 miles.

The state looked at a number of factors in deciding where to raise the speed limit in Kansas, including traffic volume and crash history. Engineers also looked at whether the highways were in rural or urban areas and the amount of commuter traffic they carry.

For example, officials chose not to raise the speed limit on Kansas 10, although the Legislature deemed it eligible. The highway has been the site of several serious wrecks in recent years.

State officials cautioned that they would be watching the routes with the new speed limit. If there's a spike in crashes or fatalities on those highways, they could revisit the issue.

And there are consumer implications as well, as faster speeds eat up more fuel.

KDOT has been neutral on the speed limit increase and has been mum about the safety implications. And no one from the Kansas Highway Patrol was available for comment Tuesday on the speed limit increase.

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