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March 3, 2013

N.H. drivers may see speed limit raised

NH considers raising speed limit

The state Highway Safety Agency is opposing three bills before the Legislature that would raise speed limits on New Hampshire highways.

The House is slated to take up the bills Wednesday.

The Transportation Committee is recommending the House kill two of the bills.

One, House Bill 289, would increase the Interstate speed limit to 70 mph. The other, HB 291, would increase the speed limit there to 75 mph.

The panel recommended their defeat on lopsided, 14-1, votes.

Rep. Michael O’Brien, D-Nashua, in a written report for the committee to the House, said the majority felt an increased speed limit would decrease traffic safety.

The third bill, HB 146, would increase the speed limit on Interstate 93 from Canterbury to the Vermont border from 65 to 70 mph.

The House panel is recommending passage of that bill, 10-4.

“Which is crazy to me,” Highway Safety Agency coordinator Peter Thomson said. “If you increase it to 70 mph, people will be going 75 mph to 80 mph. I can’t quite fathom it.”

Thomson wants the Legislature to kill all three bills before more people are killed on the state’s highways.

“We’re doing so well with fatalities,” Thomson said.

Last year’s 105 deaths ranked among the lowest ever for the state, though a little higher than the 90 from 2011. Thomson said that was the lowest mark in 50 years.

“We’ve made huge strides the last two years,” Thomson said.

Rep. Brian Chirichiello, R-Derry, is a member of the committee who shares Thomson’s concern about highway safety.

“I did not support any of those three bills,” Chirichiello said.

“My reasoning is that living in Derry, off Exits four and five in Londonderry, we see accidents constantly on I-93,” he said. “Adding speed is not going to help matters.”

State police estimate the average speed on I-93 is 82 mph, which is 17 to 27 mph over the posted limits of 55 mph in built-up areas and 65 mph in rural areas.

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