70 is the new 65: Signs now going up, raising the speed limit on some Wisconsin roadways

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MILWAUKEE -- Highway crews have begun installing brand new 70 miles-per-hour speed limit signs on interstates in Wisconsin. Once those signs go up -- drivers can drive 70 miles-per-hour on those designated roadways.

Governor Scott Walker signed the law last month -- giving the go-ahead for the speed limit to be raised on some roadways.

speed limit4According to the Governor's Highway Safety Association, Wisconsin is the last state in the Midwest to raise the speed limit to 70 miles-per-hour.

But if we're going to be honest, drivers probably weren't setting the cruise at 65 anyways -- so the higher speed limit might make them feel better about how fast they're already going.

"I know most people go around 80, so going around 80 now is probably the maximum of what you`re going to want to do. But yeah, I think going around 80 is fine now," one driver said.

But Mike Pyritz with the Wisconsin Department of Transportation has a warning about that logic.

"You`re supposed to go the posted speed limit. I`ll have to leave the discretion of that up to law enforcement," Pyritz said.

70 mile per hour speed limit

The speed limit is being raised on nearly 900 miles of roadway in Wisconsin.

"You`re seeing signs go up (Tuesday) in Racine, Kenosha, the southern part of Milwaukee County, out here in Waukesha on I-94," Pyritz said.

Some aren't too excited about 70 miles-per-hour.

"I think there are too many cars on the interstate. I think people are in too much of a hurry. I think in Wisconsin there is too much wildlife, so I really don`t think it needs to go higher," one driver said.

speed limit2

There are numerous highways in southeastern Wisconsin that will likely have the speed limit raised as well. Highway 16, for example, is not a designated interstate, but it was built to the same standards, and it's eligible for the higher speed limit.

Last month, WisDOT noted about 726 miles of Interstate would be impacted. Following subsequent engineering analysis, a total of about 810 miles will be affected along interstate segments currently posted at 65 mph.

Motorists are advised the 70 mph speed limit will not take effect until a specific highway segment is posted at the higher speed. Drivers are asked to be alert, to slow down and move over for county highway crews as they install the new signs along rural interstates.

WisDOT is also reminding motorists:

  • Posted speed limits apply when travel conditions are ideal. State law requires drivers to adjust their speed to what is “reasonable and prudent” based on travel conditions. Factors such as snow, rain, construction or heavy traffic require reduced speeds.
  • The state’s Move Over Law requires drivers to slow down or move over any time they see highway maintenance vehicles, law enforcement, other emergency responders or tow trucks stopped along the highway with warning lights flashing. Violations can result in a $263 citation.

Rural interstate segments in Wisconsin where speed limits will be raised to 70 mph:

Highway From To Miles
I-94 Illinois State Line Milwaukee County Line 25
I-94 I-39/90 in Dane County WIS 164 in Waukesha County 57
I-39/90 Illinois State line US 12 in Dane County 41
I-39/90/94 US 151 in Dane County I-39 split in Columbia County 22
I-39 I-90/94 split in Columbia County WIS 54 in Portage County 65
I-39 WIS 66 in Portage County Bus 51 in Marathon County 26
I-90/94 I-39/90/94 in Columbia County I-90 in Monroe County 63
I-90 I-94 in Monroe County US 53 in La Crosse County 37
I-94 I-90 in Monroe County US 53 in Eau Claire County 77
I-94 WIS 312 in Eau Claire County WIS 35 in St. Croix County 55
I-43 County T in Ozaukee County WIS 29 in Brown County 91
I-43 I-39 in Rock County WIS 164 in Waukesha County 54
I-41 South Washington County Line WIS 441 in Winnebago County 93
I-41 WIS 441 in Outagamie County WIS 172 in Brown County 20

Brief history of speed limits in Wisconsin:

  • Prior to 1947, it was unlawful to operate a vehicle “carelessly and heedlessly” with “wanton disregard” of the safety of others.
  • In 1949, state law specified a 65 mph speed limit during daytime hours, 55 mph at night, and 45 mph for trucks.
  • In 1962, as more of the Interstate system was completed, speed limits on Interstate highways were set at 70 mph during daylight hours, 60 mph at night and 55 mph for trucks.
  • In 1973, as an energy conservation measure, the U.S. Congress adopted a national maximum speed limit of 55 mph.
  • In 1987, Congress allowed states to adopt a 65 mph speed limit on rural Interstates.
  • In 1996, state law extended the 65 mph speed limit to certain freeways and expressways.