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Rep. Jake Blum

ND House bill to raise speed limit passes committee

GRAND FORKS -- A bill to raise speed limits on interstates and multilane highways in North Dakota passed the House Transportation Committee 8-4.

Rep. Jake Blum, R-Grand Forks, introduced a bill almost two weeks ago to change speed limits on multi-lane highways from 70 mph to 75 mph and on interstates from 75 mph to 80 mph.

Blum said he and co-sponsor Ben Koppelman, R-West Fargo, testified before the vote. Koppelman proposed the last House bill to increase speed limits in 2017, which failed due to uncertainties about the cost of implementing higher limits.

“It went pretty smooth,” Blum said of the hearing. “I thought there were good questions. We really didn’t have any negative takes from the committee. There was no opposition testimony, believe it or not, so I think that was pretty indicative of where it stands.”

Koppelman took on a new fiscal note from the state Department of Transportation in his testimony. NDDOT estimated the state will have to spend $287,000 to replace signs across the state, and $4.56 million to re-engineer affected roads for higher speeds.

“We didn’t necessarily cast aspersions on how they calculate their money. We know they’re experts in their field, but we know there were certain elements of the fiscal notes that could be called into question,” Blum said. “Some of the re-engineering project costs deserve a closer look, considering that people are driving at sustained speeds already and it hasn’t caused much of an issue.”

In 2017, NDDOT told legislators the agency estimated it would cost $155,000 to replace signs and $3.27 million to reconstruct roadways. Koppelman’s bill that year failed the House with only six members voting in its favor, according to a report from Forum News Service.

A similar bill the same year in the Senate was defeated 18-28.