Capitol Alert

No speed limit? That could become a reality for two California highways

Learn about the bill that would remove speed limits on I-5 and Highway 99

A California bill proposes two added lanes to Interstate 5 and Highway 99 with no speed limit. If the bill passes, it would tie Germany’s Autobahn for the world’s fastest speed limit.
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A California bill proposes two added lanes to Interstate 5 and Highway 99 with no speed limit. If the bill passes, it would tie Germany’s Autobahn for the world’s fastest speed limit.

A California lawmaker has introduced a bill that would make the state part of an exclusive club: The state would become one of the rare places in the world with highways with no speed limit.

State Sen. John Moorlach, R-Costa Mesa, has introduced Senate Bill 319, which would add two lanes each to the north- and south-bound lanes of I-5 and Highway 99 — those lanes would have no upper speed limit. Moorlach argued in the bill language that “traffic congestion increases the emissions of greenhouse gases as it causes automobiles to idle longer while on roadways.“

Germany’s Autobahn is famous for allowing drivers “to scorch down the autobahn at warp speed,” the BBC reported in 2013.

While Australia’s Northern Territory once had sections of highway where drivers could really cut loose, which Vox reported on in 2014, now there is a standing speed limit of 68 mph unless a speed limit is otherwise posted.

According to the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety, Texas has the highest rural interstate speed limit in the country, 85 mph, though that is for just one highway. Hawaii has the lowest rural interstate speed: 60 mph.

Advocates of a higher speed limit point to studies like a 2008 Purdue University report that found “that raising the speed limit on an interstate highway in Indiana had not increased the probability of fatalities or serious injuries, while opponents of raising the limit point to studies like the 2009 American Journal of Public Health report “that found a 3.2 percent increase in fatal crashes between 1995 and 2005 attributable to higher speed limits,” according to a report from the Pew Charitable Trusts.

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Andrew Sheeler covers California’s unique political climate for McClatchy. He has covered crime and politics from Interior Alaska to North Dakota’s oil patch to the rugged coast of southern Oregon. He attended the University of Alaska Fairbanks.
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