CARSON CITY — Drivers will be able to put the pedal to the metal on a 134-mile stretch of Interstate 80 when the Nevada Department of Transportation raises the speed limit to 80 mph.
NDOT spokeswoman Meg Ragonese said Wednesday the agency will install about 30 new speed limit signs upping the maximum speed from 75 mph on the interstate between Fernley to Winnemucca, except for the portion that runs through Lovelock.
The higher speed does not take effect until new signs are posted, which could happen next week.
It’s a victory for Sen. Don Gustavson, a Sparks Republican who for years argued higher speeds should be allowed on Nevada’s long stretches of roadways through remote, uncongested regions.
Gustavson sponsored a bill in 2015 that allowed NDOT to raise the speed limit to 80 mph in areas it deemed appropriate.
Ragonese said the department last year conducted speed studies on 24 segments of I-80 that included analyses of travel speeds, crashes and roadway geometry. NDOT plans similar studies in the first and third years after the increase to monitor results.
Gov. Brian Sandoval welcomed the news.
“I’ve traveled on every highway in the Silver State and have experienced the remote and quiet roads unique to Nevada,” Sandoval said in a statement. “The Department of Transportation and Nevada Highway Patrol have concurred that this is a safe stretch of highway to increase the current limit, and the state will continue to study other Nevada highways to possibly implement this policy.”
NDOT Director Rudy Malfabon said safety is the top concern. “Achieving more uniform traffic speeds by posting speed limits consistent with what the average motorist is traveling can ultimately reduce the overall number of crashes,” he said in a release.
“But we also know that crashes at higher speeds can be more severe. That is why we carefully reviewed traffic and road characteristics to select the most appropriate segments to raise the speed limit.”
The limit will not be raised east of Winnemucca because big trucks are unable to climb mountainous grades at the same speed as passenger vehicles, creating safety concerns, the department said.
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The speed limit on a 134-mile stretch of Interstate 80 will be increased to 80 mph, the first such change on the northern Nevada interstate in more than two decades. In 1995, state and federal law allowed the Nevada Department of Transportation to increase posted speed limits not to exceed 75 mph.