WHEELERweek – 07/17/17 Speed Limits

As published by The Wheeler Report (Gongwer News Service) – 12/27/1971…

Capitol Briefs

The state’s new 55 mph speed limit will go into effect one second after midnight Sunday morning. Highway Commission Chairman Robert Huber said all interstate highways should be posted with the new limits by Friday, Jan. 1. It will take until Jan. 10 for all two-lane highways to be posted, he said.


Citing the energy crisis, Sen. Everett Bidwell (R-Portage) has asked Senate Transportation Chairman Reuben LaFave (R-Oconto) to send his bill calling for a reduction in the state maximum speed limits to the Senate for immediate action. SB-591 was introduced May 23 and has been in the Transportation Committee since.

(1973 SB-591 – “This bill reduces the maximum speed limit on all highways in the state to 60 miles per hour during the day and 50 miles per hour at night.  The power of the highway commission to set higher limits on freeways and interstate highways is withdrawn.” No action was ever taken on the bill.)

And Today …

Following passage of the 100th Congress (1987-1988) H.R.2, which allowed the speed limit to be raised on certain roads, Wisconsin increased the speed limit on rural interstates and freeways to 65 mph in 1987 with Act 17 and Act 136.

In 1995, The National Highway System Designation Act of 1995 repealed all national speed limit requirements, and Wisconsin passed 1995 Wisconsin Act 318 increasing Wisconsin maximum speed limit to 65 mph.

In 2015, Rep. Tittl  and Sen. LeMahieu introduced 2015 AB-27/SB-26 to increase the speed limit to 70 mph on expressways.  At that point, Wisconsin was one of 12 states to still have a maximum speed limit of 65 mph. All four states bordering Wisconsin had a 70 mph speed limit. In general, states west of the Mississippi had speed limits higher than eastern states. In Texas, tolled roads had a speed limit of 85 mph, and Texas interstates had a speed limit of 80 mph. The Assembly bill passed both houses and was signed May 20, 2015. Increased speed limit signs began being posted on Wisconsin roads, about 810 total highway miles, on June 15, 2015.

In a statement to The Wheeler Report this week, Sen. LeMahieu said, “The 70 mph speed limit increase has been successful. Drivers have adjusted well and there have been no safety concerns from law enforcement. Most people I’ve talked to are happy that Wisconsin finally made the switch.” And Rep. Tittl said, “I believe the implementation of AB 27 is going well. I can’t tell you how many people have come up to me and expressed how glad they are to be able to drive legally at a higher speed. Recently, an 86-year-old woman I met in my district approached me to say how much she loves the 70 MPH speed limit. While annual statistics fluctuate based on a variety of factors, our Wisconsin highways and freeways are still some of the safest roads in the state. This bill gave the Department of Transportation the discretion to raise the speed limit where they thought it was safe to do so, and I think they are doing an excellent job using their expertise to help keep our roads safe.”

Selected Releases:

5/6/15 Sen. LeMahieu

5/13/15 Rep. Tittl

5/20/15 Gov. Walker.

5/20/15 DOT