Michigan House approves 75 mph speed limits

Jonathan Oosting
Detroit News Lansing Bureau

Lansing — Michigan would allow speeds of up to 75 mph on certain highways under legislation the Michigan House narrowly approved Wednesday.

The state Department of Transportation and Michigan State Police could raise limits above 70 mph on a stretch of rural freeway only after conducting scientific speed and safety studies. State trunkline highways could go from 60 mph to 65 mph after the same assessment.

Sponsoring Rep. Bradford Jacobsen, R-Oxford, said the legislation would allow for limits that better reflect actual traffic patterns, telling his colleagues the average speed on Michigan freeways is around 77 mph.

“Our roads are designed for 75 mph,” the Oakland County lawmaker said. “That’s the speed people feel safe traveling.”

The House approved the main bill in a 56-53 vote that blurred party lines. The legislation now heads to the Senate for further consideration.

Jacobsen earlier proposed allowing rural freeway speeds of up to 80 mph, which he said would not have happened on existing roads designed for lower speeds.

“That was a concern,” he acknowledged. “We’ve taken that out.”

The speed provision is part of a larger package that would change various limits and the rules for setting them.

Unpaved or gravel county highway speeds would generally be set at 55 mph, but they’d be ratcheted down to 45 mph in a county with a population of at least 1 million residents. This would only apply to Oakland and Wayne counties, whose populations exceed 1 million.

Local officials in the larger counties could request limits as low as 35 mph.

Speed limits would also be reduced by 10 mph in “hospital highway zones,” defined as a state trunkline highway within 1,000 feet of a hospital boundary that has a posted speed limit of at least 50 mph and two or fewer lanes for travel in the same direction.

“It’s a wide ranging package with safety as the primary concern,” Jacobsen, pushing back against critics who have suggested that higher freeway speeds will lead to more fatalities.