Three bills that appeared speeding toward passage hit a dead end this week at the statehouse.
The bills would have raised the speed limits on Iowa’s two-lane highways and on the interstates. Three-member subcommittees in the Iowa House approved those moves, but the bills did not have enough support to pass the 21-member House Transportation Committee.
“Nothing worse than bringing legislation to your committee and then it fails because it didn’t have the votes to pass through,” says Representative Josh Byrnes, a Republican from Osage who is chairman of the House Transportation Committee.
Byrnes says some members of the committee balked at raising the speed limits because of safety concerns.
“If you increase the speeds, obviously your outcome in an accident, you know, you’re increasing the damage, you’re increasing injuries, potentially more fatalities,” Byrnes says.
Others opposed the move because of the price tag for new speed limit signs.
“They were a little bit nervous about the fact that last year we just passed a 10-cent increase on fuel tax and then we turn around and have to change all these speed limits signs,” Byrnes says. “And, oh, well there’s a good use of your Road Use Tax Fund dollars to simply change signs so people can go faster.”
Representative Gary Worthan, a Republican from Storm Lake, says there was “a fair amount of support” for the bills initially, but most of it had evaporated by Wednesday.
“Our representatives started hearing from the people out in the country,” Worthan says. “…Democracy works. It’s alive and well.”
A move to raise the speed limit on rural sections of Iowa’s interstates failed to clear a committee in the Iowa Senate last year. Ten years ago Iowa policymakers raised the interstate speed limits from 65 to 70 miles an hour. Speed limits are reduced in urban areas. State officials say 72 is the average speed for traffic on the interstates that cut through Iowa.
This week was the legislative deadline for getting committee approval of policy bills. Bills that deal with taxes or spending are not subject to that deadline and are eligible for consideration at any time during the legislative session.