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Inslee Uses Veto To Slow Down 75-MPH Speed Limit

Washington Governor Jay Inslee vetoed a proposed increase in the highway speed limit from 70 to 75 mph.

A wide majority of the Washington Legislature voted to raise the maximum speed limit from 70 to 75 miles per hour.

But in his first veto of 2015, Washington Gov. Jay Inslee attempted to slow down the proposed increase. The Democrat said he wants a study performed first to see if higher speeds could be allowed safely.

"I understand for all of us shaving a few minutes off here and there is handy,” Inslee said Wednesday. “But as a person who has known a lot of widows and orphans who have been killed by speed, I know the face of speed and it can be deadly. So I think it is appropriate to do our research first before we make this kind of decision.”

The chief sponsor in the Washington Legislature of the 75 mph speed limit was untroubled by the governor's partial veto. Republican Rep. Joe Schmick said the intent of his bill remains intact and safety studies would be needed regardless.

In the Oregon Legislature, two measures that would raise Oregon's maximum highway speed from 65 to 70 miles per hour are sputtering, but still alive. One of those measures would apply to Oregon interstates only. The other would raise the top speed to 70 mph on Interstate 84 and an assortment of state routes in central and eastern Oregon.

The Washington state legislation does not specify where drivers should be allowed to go faster. During legislative debate though it became clear that lawmakers from the eastern half of the state had Interstate 90 in mind.

"When you look at I-90 from George to the Spokane County line, frankly I don't see any reason why it can't be 75 [mph]," Representative Schmick said in an interview Wednesday. "It is really open and straight."

Inslee used his section veto power to eliminate the first paragraph of the two-page speed limit proposal. That struck the Legislature's explanation of its reasons for seeking a higher speed limit on I-90.

"The governor's veto removed as assumption by the Legislature that 'there are portions of Interstate 90, and possibly other portions of the state highway system,' where the speed limit could be raised," Inslee's spokesman David Postman explained in an email.

In his veto message, Inslee said he would direct the state Department of Transportation to consult with the Washington Traffic Safety Commission and the State Patrol to work out the next steps.

Now semi-retired, Tom Banse covered national news, business, science, public policy, Olympic sports and human interest stories from across the Northwest. He reported from well known and out–of–the–way places in the region where important, amusing, touching, or outrageous events unfolded. Tom's stories can be found online and were heard on-air during "Morning Edition" and "All Things Considered" on NPR stations in Washington, Oregon, and Idaho.