TOPEKA — If the Kansas House has its way, you might soon be able to get down the road a little faster.
On a voice vote, representatives gave initial approval to House Bill 2034, which would allow the Kansas Department of Transportation to raise the maximum speed limit from 70 to 75 on divided multilane highways.
Rep. Marvin Kleeb, R-Overland Park, who carried the bill on the floor, said Kansas is playing catch-up with other open-space western states that have already raised limits to 75 and in some cases, 80.
He said the state's roads are excellent and today's cars can easily handle the higher speeds and "there's no conclusive evidence" that higher speeds lead to more accidents.
Even the 55-mph speed limit of the 1970s was "not the additional safety issue, but to save fuel."
About the only speed bump was an unsuccessful attempt by Rep. Forest Knox, R-Altoona, to amend the bill to allow the higher speeds only on limited-access highways. He said he was afraid that some roads with at-grade access might not be up to the higher speeds.
Opponents of his amendment argued that the Department of Transportation engineers could make those kinds of determinations.
House Transportation Committee Chairman Gary Hayzlett, R-Lakin, said he thinks the change would not have a major impact since many, if not most motorists, already push the speed limit on the interstates by five miles an hour or so.
He also said he doesn't think the higher speed limit will be much of a danger to motorists who want to drive slower for better mileage, because the higher limits would only be on highways with four lanes or more, where the traffic flow allows for easy passing.
According to the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety, 13 states allow 75 mph travel on some roads, mostly rural interstates.
Only four — Idaho, New Mexico and North and South Dakota — allow motorists to drive 75 in urban areas.
The measure now goes to the Senate.