Speed Limit on I-182 to Stay 70 mph | KEPR CBS 19 - News, Weather and Sports - Pasco, WA - Pasco, Washington | Local & Regional

Speed Limit on I-182 to Stay 70 mph

By Chelsea Kopta
RICHLAND -- After a pattern of deadly crashes, the state looked at lowering the limit on I-182 to 60 mph. Several weeks after conducting a traffic study of the 13-mile stretch of freeway, the Washington State Department of Transportation decided to keep the speed limit at 70 mph.

The decision to change the limit comes down to - you guessed it - speed. The DOT investigation found 85 percent of drivers went the limit, straddling the line between 69 and 72. And that 85th percentile is golden. DOT said it's considered a good indicator for safe speed so they stuck with 70 mph.

It's not the answer many were hoping for.

"How much time are you losing in life? One minute, two minutes? Is that worth a life? No. So just slow it down everybody," Tommy Roberts said, who drives I-182 everyday.

Tommy Roberts wanted speed dropped down to 60 mph, especially along the Queensgate interchange where he said traffic is a trouble spot.

"The On and off ramps - there's a lot of confusion," he continued. "They should slow it down to 60."

In the same study, DOT found speed was not the primary cause of the deadly crashes in late 2009.

A fiery collision killed two young girls, Taylor Tefft and Alex Hatley on the first of October; a crumpled car careened over the side of a bridge and killed a teen in early November, and a speeding driver was killed in a crash on Thanksgiving day.

It seems, those crashes were more a fluke than a normal trend. When Action News pulled the numbers, we found there were a total of three fatality collisions in 2009. That's the same number of fatalities as the five previous years of State Patrol data combined.

"That was very disturbing and that was well outside of the norm for that corridor," Lt. Jay Cabezuela said, spokesperson for the Washington State Patrol.

In fact, in the last five years, DOT reported 850 collisions on I-182 compared to over 65 million vehicles that traveled that same area without incident.

While the speed limit's not going anywhere, changes are on the way. DOT suggested adding a few more speed limit signs as well as "slower traffic keep right" signs reminding slower drivers to stay out of the fast lane.

Plus, State Patrol told Action News they will be cracking down on I-182for an entire year in what's called the Problem-Oriented Public Safety project of POPS. Their focus will be on more than just speed.

"We can put all of our resources on I-182 whether unmarked or motorcycles or marked vehicles to focus on violations that contribute to collisions like unsafe lane changes, following too closely and speed," Cabezuela said.

The speed limit's here to stay. Many drivers hope, you follow it.

The DOT now plan to evaluate the speed limit on I-182 every year.