- Associated Press - Wednesday, May 6, 2015

MADISON, Wis. (AP) - Wisconsin transportation officials would be allowed to raise the speed limit to 70 mph on some roads under a bill that the state Senate approved Wednesday.

The Republican-authored bill would permit the Department of Transportation to raise the limit to 70 mph on roads where they decide the limit would be safe. The measure would prohibit DOT from going to 70 mph on four-lane roads with at-grade access, however.

The GOP-controlled Assembly passed the measure overwhelmingly in March, but Senate Republicans were wary of the bill. Sen. Jerry Petrowski, R-Marathon, and Sen. Devin LeMahieu, R-Oostburg, quelled concerns by drafting the at-grade prohibition as an amendment.

The Senate approved the amendment and the bill on voice votes Wednesday with no debate. Sen. Dave Hansen, D-Green Bay, made the only comment about the bill on the Senate floor, saying it shows both parties can work together.

“I’m glad it happened,” Senate Majority Leader Scott Fitzgerald, R-Juneau, told reporters after the vote. “(There) seems to be a lot of support for the change.”

The measure now goes back to the Assembly; both houses must pass the same bill before it can go to Gov. Scott Walker for his signature. The proposal’s Assembly author, Rep. Paul Tittl, R-Manitowoc, helped craft the at-grade amendment, so passage in that chamber appears all but certain.

A Walker spokeswoman didn’t immediately respond to an email Wednesday inquiring about whether the governor supports the bill.

According to a fiscal estimate attached to the bill, DOT officials plan to raise the limit to 70 mph on freeway portions of the interstate system as well as portions of U.S. Highway 51, U.S. Highway 53 and U.S. Highway 141. The agency estimates it would spend about $238,000 to create and install 815 signs reflecting the change.

DOT also estimates it will spend another $126,000 to investigate raising the limit on other freeway and expressway segments.

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Follow Todd Richmond on Twitter at https://twitter.com/trichmond1

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