By John Toole
---- — CONCORD — Gov. Maggie Hassan is ready to raise the speed limit on a portion of Interstate 93.
“The governor is reviewing the measure and has not yet received the final legislation, but she appreciates the work done by the Legislature on this issue and is inclined to sign the bill,” communications director Marc Goldberg said yesterday.
Hassan, in an interview with The Eagle-Tribune last month, said she didn’t like the idea of raising the speed limit.
But that was before the Senate joined the House in approving a 5-mph increase in the speed limit.
The House last month voted to increased the top speed on I-93 north of Concord to the Vermont border, except for a winding section through Franconia Notch, from 65 mph to 70 mph.
The House approved the change through a 292-65 vote on House Bill 146.
The Senate last week passed the bill on a voice vote.
Both votes would indicate the Legislature would override a Hassan veto, should she use it.
“The governor won’t have a chance, even if she wanted to. I think there are enough votes in the (Legislature) to override,” said Peter Thomson, state Highway Safety Agency coordinator. “Unfortunately, I don’t think we will be able to keep it the way it is.”
Thomson acknowledged this comes down to the governor having to choose among legislative fights.
“She doesn’t need this battle,” he said.
Highway Safety and the Department of Public Safety had opposed the speed limit increase for safety reasons.
“This is something we will have to deal with through law enforcement,” Thomson said. “Hopefully, we will not have more fatalities.”
Hassan herself appeared reluctant to raise the speed limit during the interview last month.
“I generally am not crazy about the idea of people driving faster,” Hassan said then. “Our state police will tell you they’ve been stopping people at higher and higher speeds, over 100 mph on some roadways. My instinct is not to do it, but I haven’t been fully briefed.”
Hassan agreed with a point raised by opponents during House debate.
“The question is whether every time you increase the limit, people take it that much farther,” Hassan said.
State police have estimated the average speed on I-93 at 82 mph, which is 17 mph to 27 mph over the posted speed limit.
During House debate, proponents argued that people already are exceeding the posted speed limit. Opponents had countered that driving faster will lead to accidents and waste fuel.