by Andrew Crisp
The Idaho Legislture's House Transportation Committee considered a bill Thursday that would make Idaho Transportation Department the final arbiter of speed limits on highways within city limits across the Gem State.
Currently, Idaho's local governments have the authority to lower the speed on highways within their cities, a power, bill supporters said, was being abused to increase revenues through speeding tickets.
The sponsor, Twin Falls Republican Rep. Leon Smith, said small towns like Bellevue, Idaho, were the inspiration for the bill.
"I do remember a few little towns that slowed you down to next to nothing," said Smith. "My inspiration for this bill is the town of Bellevue. It’s hard to justify a speed that low unless you have a lot of pedestrian traffic or schools or something."
In the Adams County village of Council, as an example, Highway 95 snakes through the tiny town, passing the community's thrift store, local grocer and a school. In just under a mile and a half, the speed limit drops from 65 to 45 mph, and near the school to just 20 mph.
Boise Democratic Rep. Phyllis King was quick to ask what the bill might mean for Idaho's school zones.
"I’m thinking of Gooding, where you go past the School for the Deaf and Blind, and I think Broadway Avenue here in Boise is a main street with a school on it. You’re not going to take away those school zones, are you?" asked King.
Smith and ITD representatives assured King that speed limits near schools wouldn't change, even if they are situated on state highways. The bill would still allow local governments to appeal to ITD for a change.
"If ITD said, 'No, it needs to be 45 by the school zone,' that would probably be appealed rather quickly," said Smith. "Some temperance would probably then be added."
Ultimately, the committee forwarded the bill to the amending order for possible changes.