Tourism-backed Speed Limit Increase Goes to Legislature

March 9, 2015

A legislative proposal backed by the tourism industry to increase the state’s maximum speed limit to 70 miles per hour on Wisconsin freeways and expressways is likely to be considered by the legislature sometime this month.

GOP Rep. Paul Tittl of Manitowoc, the bill’s lead sponsor, claims most people already drive faster than 70 mph on Wisconsin highways so raising the limit to make everybody drive the same speed will make highways safer.

Critics argue the opposite: Higher speed limits cause more accidents, or at very least, there is no evidence that speed limit increases make roads safer.

The Assembly passed a 70 mph-speed-limit proposal in 2013 but it failed to get Senate approval because of concerns over safety. Tittl says he wants the legislature to approve the current measure, Assembly Bill 27, this spring so that the new speed limit is in place for the summer tourism season.

Tourism interests contributed nearly $611,000 to current legislators between January, 2012, and Oct. 20, 2014, including nearly $290,000 to Republicans who control the Assembly 63-36, and nearly $227,000 to Republicans who control the Senate 18-14.

Tittl received $1,600 from tourism interests between January, 2012, which is the year he was elected, and Oct. 20, 2014, including $950 from Don and Jean Seehafer, of Manitowoc, owners of Seehafer Broadcasting. The bill’s other lead sponsor, Sen. Devin LeMahieu of Oostburg, received $13,175 between January and Oct. 20, 2014, much of it in the final three months leading up to his election last November.

LeMahieu’s top contributors in the tourism industry include $2,000 from Thomas and Bea Hollfelder, of Elkhart Lake, owners of Tiger Racing; $890 from Marci and Kory Drew, of Montello, owners of Drews Lakeside Bar & Grill; and $800 from William Glembocki, of Burlington, owner of the Brat Stop.