Raleigh, N.C. — A proposal to raise the state's maximum speed limit to 75 mph has run out of gas.
House lawmakers Thursday voted down Senate Bill 709, a measure that would have allowed state transportation officials to raise the top speed limit to 75 mph on highways they deem safe at that speed.
After the bill appeared likely to fail last week, House leaders rewrote it to turn it into a study. The latest version would have directed the Department of Transportation to study whether the increase would be safe and come back to lawmakers in January with a proposal for a pilot project on four roadways in the state.
But critics said even the study was moving too fast.
Rep. Becky Carney, D-Mecklenburg, said the DOT should be given a full year – and adequate funding – for a comprehensive study.
"We want to look at the safety of people in this state," Carney said. "We haven’t taken into consideration the driver limitations on our aging highways. We haven’t taken into consideration our highway workers and emergency personnel."
Supporters of the bill said the oversight committee that would receive the study could look at all those issues.
“At least do a study,” urged Rep. Dana Bumgardner, R-Gaston. “I don’t have any trouble driving a vehicle at that speed, or aiming it or whatever. I would like to see this passed in the interest of commerce and saving time.”
But other lawmakers said the study would be a waste of resources.
"I just think it’s a waste of money and a waste of effort," said Rep. Larry Pittman, R-Cabarrus. "We don’t need to be committing resources to this study when we’re having a hard enough time figuring out how we’re going to pay for the roads and bridges to start with."
"Everything we do here is supposed to improve something," said Rep. Josh Dobson, R-McDowell. "For the life of me, I can‘t think of one good thing that would come from raising the speed limit to 75, even studying it."
The measure failed by a bipartisan vote of 64 to 44.