Risks far outweigh benefits of 75 mph limit, according to state’s analysis
SPOKANE – After careful review, analysis and public input, the Washington State Department of Transportation, Washington State Patrol and Washington Traffic Safety Commission announced today that, due to safety concerns, they will not increase speed limit on Interstate 90 in eastern Washington.
The partners reviewed increasing the speed limit from 70 to 75 mph along roughly 100 miles of I-90 beginning near George to the Lincoln/Spokane county line. They found the increased risks and costs associated with the proposed change far outweighed the projected time savings.
In particular, analysis of the roadway, crash history, current speeds and other states’ experiences predicted an additional 1.27 fatal or serious crashes annually if the speed limit was raised. A higher speed limit also would bring an estimated $8.3 million in additional annual safety costs, the analysis found.
By comparison, the review found that raising the speed limit to 75 mph would save just an estimated five minutes on a 100-mile trip, with an estimated annual value of $3.6 million in time saved.
“Our top priority as agencies is traffic safety,” said Acting Secretary of Transportation Roger Millar. “We made this decision through a lens of safety, and it’s notable that all three agencies agreed the increased safety risks were too high.”
“Our state’s Target Zero Plan aims to reduce traffic deaths and serious injuries to zero by 2030,” said Darrin Grondel, Washington Traffic Safety Commission Director, “We believe this decision supports this goal.”
“The Washington State Patrol stands with two of our many safety partners, the Traffic Safety Commission and the Department of Transportation regarding our goal of Target Zero,” said Chief John R. Batiste. “After careful review of the facts and the comments from the public, I support the decision not to increase the speed limit.”
The review was done at the request of eastern Washington lawmakers who wanted the feasibility of an increased speed limit evaluated. A law passed in 2015 allows for an increase if it’s deemed safe to do so.
The three partnering agencies began their work in August, using careful analysis of available traffic and engineering data as well as input from the public. Two public meetings were held in Ritzville and Moses Lake in April, and comments also were submitted through the WSDOT website. Public input received serious consideration, but safety remained the final, guiding standard, officials said.