A Pennsylvania House panel has advanced a bill to authorize faster travel on the state’s turnpike system.
The House Transportation Committee voted 18-4 to move a bill to the full House that could result in cars and trucks being authorized to drive 70 mph. If approved there, HB2119 would advance to the Senate for further consideration.
State law now authorizes all vehicles to travel 65 mph on the turnpike system. However, certain stretches of roadway are posted at 55 mph, including the east-west tunnels.
Sponsored by Rep. Joseph Preston, D-East Liberty, the bill would affect portions of the turnpike system posted at 65 mph. On these stretches, the turnpike commission would be given permission to perform an engineering analysis to determine where the speed limit could be safely increased to 70 mph.
In neighboring Ohio, speeds on the state’s turnpike were raised a year ago for all vehicles from 65 mph to 70 mph. Turnpike officials credit the 5 mph increase for an improved safety record on the 241-mile roadway.
Supporters say that better safety standards for vehicles and improved driving conditions mean the Pennsylvania Turnpike can accommodate faster travel.
Others say the advantages for the state do not end there. They contend that the higher limit could entice some travelers to choose to pay for the opportunity to make better time while driving through the state.
Critics question whether it’s a good idea to increase speeds to enable drivers to get to their destination earlier. They are also concerned that drivers will travel even faster.
Officials at the Owner-Operator Independent Drivers Association say the only speed limit policy that makes sense is to have all vehicles traveling at the same speed.
OOIDA Executive Vice President Todd Spencer said that requiring certain vehicles to drive at speeds slower than other vehicles does not promote safety.
“It does exactly the opposite by requiring vehicles to be constantly in conflict with each other,” Spencer said.
He also noted that “the majority of travelers drive at a speed they believe to be prudent and safe. For truckers and other drivers that equates to traveling at about 70 mph.”
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