Legislative notebook: Speed limit increase hits a speed bump

Urdahl, Campbell

Sen. LeRoy Stumpf offered a confession to the Senate Transportation Committee.

The Plummer Democrat said he sometimes speeds while traveling his northwest Minnesota district.

“I bring this bill to you on behalf of all the guilty people across the state of Minnesota,” Stumpf said Tuesday. “It is just my Catholic guilt complex.”

Stumpf’s bill would raise speed limits on two-lane roads from 55 miles an hour to 60.

The committee delayed work on it so Stumpf and the Minnesota Department of Transportation can work out wording.

A MnDOT representative opposed the bill, saying that the way it was written it would increase speed limits even on county and township gravel roads.

Stumpf said he would be happy just raising speed limits on paved state roads.

“Most of the roads in our part of the state are 55 miles an hour,” Stumpf said. “Of course, they are all flat and very low traffic. Yet, somehow, going above that 55 miles an hour speed limit makes me feel guilty.”

Transportation Chairman Joe Gimse, R-Willmar, indicated he favors the bill. “It seems to me there is an increased consumer demand out there for increasing the speed limit.”

MnDOT’s Sue Groth said a study after Minnesota raised some limits to 60 in 2006 shows that while traffic accidents fell statewide, the rate of decline was slower on 60 mph highways.

“We believe it will increase travel speeds … and increase the total number of crashes, serious injuries and fatalities,” she said.

Sen. Tony Lourey, DFL-Kerrick, was alarmed about raising limits on gravel roads. “There are some significant engineering deficiencies on a lot of miles of road.”

Waiting for permit bill

A bill written to speed the approval of environment and related permits is expected to receive a House committee vote today.

The bill written to speed business project developments received a Tuesday hearing in the House natural resources committee. The proposal by Rep. Dan Fabian, R-Roseau, received a mixture of reaction.

The Minnesota Chamber of Commerce supports the measure, saying that a long permit process slows down development.

But Steve Morse of the Minnesota Environmental Partnership, said the bill actually would slow down the permitting process and “loosen restrictions.”

Civil War logo unveiled

Events relating to the 150th anniversary of Minnesota’s involvement in the Civil War have an official logo.

A Civil War task force revealed the red, white and blue design of graphic design professional Michael Campbell of Chanhassen on Tuesday.

Among its uses will be to accompany a Civil War series to run in newspapers statewide, Rep. Dean Urdahl, R-Grove City, said.

Urdahl and Secretary of State Mark Ritchie, both Civil War buffs, said several Civil War events will be held.

Ritchie said Campbell’s design could be used on a massive banner in the Minnesota History Center and displayed at Civil War battlefield re-enactments.

West central visits

A Capitol display of west-central Minnesota energy and other technology-related accomplishments was not crowded Tuesday, but participants in the first-time visit declared it a success.

“All you have to do is talk to one person and it’s all worthwhile,” said Steve Miller of North American Fertilizer in Benson.

Miller’s organization makes fertilizer from poultry waste and wood chips.

Added engineer Stan Simon of Kerkhoven: “You kind of give them a whirlwind tour.”

Steve Renquist, executive director of the Kandiyohi County and City of Willmar Economic Development Commission, said about 200 legislators and Capitol workers looked over exhibits 25 people brought for 12 organizations.

He said he probably will recommend to his board that the group return. Several regions make it an annual tradition to visit the Capitol to promote regional needs, such as St. Cloud, Duluth-St. Louis County, Bemidji and Rochester.

Renquist said the group is promoting an 18-country renewable energy corridor in the area, but that may need to wait until next year’s legislative session.

Sen. Joe Gimse, R-Willmar, suggested the idea of erecting displays at the Capitol.

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