By John Toole
---- — CONCORD — The New Hampshire House yesterday approved a 5 mph increase in the speed limit on Interstate 93 between Concord and the Vermont border.
The vote potentially raises the top legal speed to 70 mph on the rural stretch of highway, except for a winding section through Franconia Notch, should the Senate and Gov. Maggie Hassan approve.
The House, meanwhile, rejected an amendment that also would have boosted the speed to 70 mph on Interstate 89 between Concord and Lebanon.
Lawmakers killed two other bills that would have increased the top speed to 70 or 75 mph on highways statewide.
The I-93 proposal, House Bill 146, came to the floor with the support of the House Transportation Committee and easily passed, 292-65.
Rep. Steve Vaillancourt, R-Manchester, brought the amendment to the floor that would have boosted the speed on I-89 as well. But the House rejected the amendment on a close, 187-165 vote.
Vaillancourt, a longtime advocate for raising the speed limit, related how when he drives the 65 mph speed limit from Concord to Lebanon, he is regularly passed by other drivers.
“If 90 percent of people do something, that is what they are consenting to,” Vaillancourt said.
Raising the speed limit won’t force those who want to conserve fuel drive faster, he argued.
“All it will do is make us law-abiders,” he said.
Rep. Dan Itse, R-Fremont, agreed with Vaillancourt.
“Our current laws invite disrespect of the law,” Itse said.
The state Highway Safety Agency had opposed all of the bills, due to concerns about fatalities.
Rep. Christy Bartlett, D-Concord, pressed that argument in debate.
“Speed kills,” Bartlett said.
She also asked the House to reject the proposal for fuel conservation reasons.
“Fossil fuels are not limitless, nor are they inexpensive,” Bartlett said.
Rep. Sherm Packard, R-Londonderry, characterized the speed limit increase north of Concord as a practical step.
“Maybe we can increase the speed on the lower half, if we can ever get it widened,” Packard said.