AMHERST, Mass. (WWLP) - Beacon Hill lawmakers are considering a proposal to raise the speed limit on state highways. And one UMass researcher says it may make the roads safer.
The bill was filed in January by Norfolk State Representative and Northampton native Dan Winslow. The proposal aims to raise the speed limit on the Massachusetts Turnpike and state highways with posted limits of 65mph. Rep. Winslow is sponsoring a five miles per hour increase, from 65 to 70.
“I'm not a big highway user. People do exceed the 65mph limit. When I drive at 65 people are often passing,” said Stan Sherer of Northampton.
If the bill is passed, Massachusetts would become the only state in New England with a 70mph speed limit law. “But I think 70 would be asking for trouble. Because now they are going to 90, as opposed to, if it's 65 they'll do 70 or 75,” said Judy Jones of Holyoke.
UMass’s Transportation Engineering Program uses simulators to study a driver's behavior. And some researchers say increasing the speed limit doesn't necessarily mean you'll drive faster.
“Counter to what people might believe, when you raise the speed limit by five miles an hour, it doesn't mean that speeds are just going to go up by five miles an hour. [That’s] because people are already traveling at a speed that they felt most reasonable and safe,” said College of Engineering Associate Professor, Dr. Michael Knodler.
Knodler prepares the next generation of city and traffic engineers at UMass Amherst. He told 22News how the highway is designed is also a factor; as the road may not be able to handle higher speeds.
“I'm not necessarily saying raise the speed limit that's the good thing to do. If you need lower speeds, you need to change a driver’s behavior. And you need to engineer the road to achieve lower speeds,” said Knodler inside Marston Hall on Tuesday.
Knodler says the future of transportation will feature variable speed limits that change daily depending on traffic and weather.