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Bill to boost mph on portion of I-93 debated


CONCORD - Drivers may legally travel 70 mph on one section of one of the state's interstate highways under a bill up for a vote next week.

The House is scheduled to vote on three bills to increase the speed limit on interstate highways Wednesday, but the House Transportation Committee is recommending only one of the three be approved, for Interstate 93.

House Bill 146 would increase the speed limit from 65 mph to 70 mph from Canterbury to the Vermont border with the exception of Franconia Notch were the speed limit would remain 55 mph.

The bill is sponsored by several North Country House members.

Transportation Committee member Rep. Brian Rhodes, D-Nashua, notes that national statistics do not show an increase in accidents rates when speed limits are increased by 5 mph.

The committee recommends the House kill House Bill 289, which would increase the speed limit 5 mph to 70 mph on the state's interstate highways and would increase the minimum speed on the turnpikes to 50 mph from 45.

The prime sponsor of the bill, Rep. Steve Vaillancourt, R-Manchester, has proposed similar legislation for years, saying most people travel faster than the posted speed limits now.

He often does a survey traveling at the posted 65 mph and calculates the percentage of vehicles passing him.

Vaillancourt contends slower drivers are the real problem because they cause accidents, although safety officials say those who drive both faster and slower than traffic are the drivers who cause accidents.

Another Vaillancourt bill, House Bill 291, would raise the speed limit on the interstate highways to 75 mph, saying the two bills would give lawmakers a choice.

The Transportation Committee recommended 14-1 that both bills be killed, saying the highway system is not designed for speeds that fast and raising the speed limit would tax the highways' safety limits.

The lone dissenting vote, Rep. Tim O'Flaherty, D-Manchester, says "the current speed limit of 65 mph is too low and arbitrarily enforced. The law should be in accord with actual practices and is undermined when it promulgates widely unenforceable edicts and when they are enforced or done arbitrarily."

Some fear raising the speed limit would encourage drivers to travel even faster without concern about getting a ticket.

The three bills were scheduled for a vote March 6, but the House adjourned before acting on them.

They will be on the House's calendar for next Wednesday when it meets at 10 a.m.

If any of the bills are approved, they would then go to the Senate for action.



grayno@unionleader.com



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