By Staff 1-12,2016
The speed limit will increase to 70 mph on sections of US 85, WYO 130 and WYO 120 later this month, when weather permits WYDOT to change the speed limit signs on the highways.
Much of US 85 from just east of its interchange with I-25 (Exit 17) north of Cheyenne to Newcastle will be posted with the 70 mph limit. Highway segments adjacent to communities will retain their current speed limit. WYO 130 from I-80 south to Saratoga, and WYO 120 from about 18 miles north of Cody to the Montana border also will get the higher limit.
WYDOT expects changing the speed limit signs on each of the three highways to take about one day to complete under favorable weather conditions, and the department will notify the public that the new limit is in effect when the change is complete.
The three highway sections will be the first to get the higher speed limit approved for two-lane rural highways by the Legislature last year. They were among 1,546 miles of highway a subsequent study showed had the best potential for safely handling 70 mph traffic.
“Before any speed limit can be changed, state law requires that a comprehensive engineering study and traffic investigation must be completed,” WYDOT Chief Engineer Gregg Fredrick said. “That study for these three highways found it safe and reasonable to increase the limit to 70 mph on these sections.”
Among the factors the study evaluated were the terrain the highways pass through, their crash histories, current travel speeds, traffic volumes and the percentage of heavy trucks, alignment and sight distances, the number and locations of at-grade intersections and the amount of agricultural and recreational use the routes experience.
Current travel speeds on the three highways were found to be in the 70 mph range. The new speed limit is not expected to result in significantly higher travel speeds, Fredrick said, and Highway Patrol enforcement efforts will seek to prevent any such increases.
WYDOT will monitor speeds, crashes and traffic flows on the highways and re-evaluate the speed limit increase annually.
WYDOT continues to study about 1,314 miles of highways for their potential to safely handle 70 mph speeds, including US 20-26 between Casper and Shoshoni, US 287 between Lander and Rawlins, WYO 220 between Casper and Muddy Gap, US 191 from Rock Springs to Pinedale and US 14-16-20 east of Cody.
Highway sections that would require significant improvements to safely accommodate the higher speed limit will be considered in a future study.