Speed limit increases could be coming to U.P. roads

LANSING — A package of bills that would increase speed limits on some roads in Michigan has passed through the State’s Legislature and awaits Governor Rick Snyder’s signature. So what does that mean for drivers in the Upper Peninsula?

According to Senator Tom Casperson (R-Escanaba), trunklines like the US-2 and M-28 corridors and US-141 could be among those whose speed limits would increase from 55 to 65 miles per hour in the future, and the U.P. portion of I-75 could also speed up with this legislation. He says the increases allowed by the bills are based on the 85th percentile determined by numerous speed studies undertaken by the Michigan State Police.

“The public — the motoring public — if you take a look at what 85 percent of the people are traveling on average, that is probably the right place to be,” said Casperson. “That’s where people are the most comfortable traveling, and that’s the safest speed that we should be allowing on the highways.”

The bill package, which narrowly passed the House of Representatives, has received some criticism. One item of contention was alleged engineering costs that could be required to get the roads up to speed. Proponents argued against this, since many roads were engineered to handle speeds above the traditional 55.

“Back before the energy crisis, the speed limits on many of [the] trunklines we have in the U.P. were 65, and so the roads, the guardrails, all of those things were already engineered for that. Not only were they engineered for that, they were engineered to handle cars that were built back in those days versus the kind of vehicles we drive today with the technology in them today [which is] far more advanced,” Casperson added.

Once the legislation is approved by the Governor, changes could be seen on around 600 miles of main roads and 900 miles of rural trunklines — like those in the U.P. — within about a year. One of the bills in the package — this one introduced by State Representative John Kivela (D-Marquette) — also provides for a lower penalty for drivers ticketed for going up to five miles per hour over the posted speed limit.