Davis speed limit bill looks to rev up the session

Senate President Pro Tem Brent Hill broke the news Tuesday about a move to raise speed limits as a sweetener in a lunch talk he gave Tuesday to the Idaho Society of Association Executives.

Hill said Senate Majority Leader Bart Davis had given him permission to tout his plan to increase highway speed limits on some stretches by 5 mph. Davis plans to introduce the measure by next week.

“You know when everyone breaks their smile?” said the Rexburg Republican at the close of his opening remarks. “When I tell them we’re also looking at increasing the speed limit on freeways up to 80 miles an hour.”

House Speaker Scott Bedke, who spoke after Hill, added that the Davis bill would require that the Idaho Transportation Department determine that highway design is adequate to handle the higher speeds, up to 75 on state highways and 80 on interstates.

“We’ll punt a lot of that science to ITD and their studies,” said Bedke, R-Oakley. “There are areas where that would be OK and areas where that would not be OK.”

Davis, R-Idaho Falls, said ITD’s studies have been recently updated and no additional engineering expense would be associated with reviewing highways suitable for higher speeds. Davis added that heavy truck speeds would remain 10 miles lower than automobiles under his proposal.

In his first draft, Davis said, he only covered interstate highways. After discussing it with colleagues, he said he was urged by several to include state highways.

In preparing to present the bill to the Senate Transportation Committee, Davis has researched the last time interstate speeds were boosted to 75 in the 1990s. The Senate vote was 28-7, the House vote was 56-12.


Dan Popkey came to Idaho in 1984 to work as a police reporter. Since 1987, he has covered politics and has reported on 25 sessions of the Legislature. Dan has a bachelor's in political science from Santa Clara University and a master's in journalism from Columbia University. He was a Congressional Fellow of the American Political Science Association and a Journalism Fellow at the University of Michigan. A former page in the U.S. House of Representatives, he graduated Capitol Page High School in 1976. In 2007, he led the Statesman’s coverage of the Sen. Larry Craig sex scandal, which was one of three Pulitzer Prize finalists in breaking news. In 2003, he won the Ted M. Natt First Amendment award from the Pacific Northwest Newspaper Association for coverage of University Place, the University of Idaho’s troubled real estate development in Boise. Dan helped start the community reading project "Big Read." He has two children in college and lives on the Boise Bench with an old gray cat.

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