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SD Interstate Speed Increases Wednesday

Starting Wednesday drivers on South Dakota interstates can legally cruise at 80 miles per hour. State lawmakers included the five mile an hour increase in a transportation funding bill. Governor Dennis Daugaard signed the measure. 

Most bills approved by the State Legislature and the Governor take effect at the start of the state’s fiscal year. That’s July 1st. But 2015’s transportation funding bill has an emergency clause, so the law goes into effect on April 1st.

Kristi Sandal with the South Dakota Department of Transportation says the DOT has new signs that read 80 miles per hour. Crews plan to post about 250 of them along Interstate 29 and 90 on Wednesday.

"They’re going to start in the morning installing signs," Sandal says. "There may be instances where, you know, they have to move down the highway, obviously, so you might see one that’s 80 and then the next one they’re installing to 80, but any place there’s a 75 mile per hour sign, on April 1st, the speed limit will actually be 80."

Sandal says drivers should take note that Interstate traffic is allowed to drive 80 mph on stretches that used to be 75 mph, but speed limits in other zones stay the same. That means people aren’t allowed to drive any faster in areas around towns where Interstate speeds slow to 65 mph or 55 mph.  

The speed limit increase changes little for law enforcement except a different maximum number. Major Dana Svendsen is an assistant superintendent with the South Dakota Highway Patrol.

"People always talk about a cushion and things like that. And what we always stress is that drivers shouldn’t assume that there’s any kind of a cushion or a grace period, because, obviously, we don’t have the authority to tell people they can violate the law, so 80 miles an hour is 80 miles an hour," Svendsen says. 

Svendsen says the interstate speed limit increases, but drivers don’t have to go that fast. The minimum speed on I-29 and I-90 is 40 miles per hour.

The speed limit signs cost $100 each. The State’s Department of Transportation typically replaces some signs each year because weather degrades their quality and crashes sometimes ruin the signs.

Kealey Bultena grew up in South Dakota, where her grandparents took advantage of the state’s agriculture at nap time, tricking her into car rides to “go see cows.” Rarely did she stay awake long enough to see the livestock, but now she writes stories about the animals – and the legislature and education and much more. Kealey worked in television for four years while attending the University of South Dakota. She started interning with South Dakota Public Broadcasting in September 2010 and accepted a position with television in 2011. Now Kealey is the radio news producer stationed in Sioux Falls. As a multi-media journalist, Kealey prides herself on the diversity of the stories she tells and the impact her work has on people across the state. Kealey is always searching for new ideas. Let her know of a great story! Find her on Facebook and twitter (@KealeySDPB).