SPECIAL REPORT: Illinois governor nixes bid to end split speed limit

| 8/21/2007

Tuesday, Aug. 21, 2007 – Despite widespread support in the Illinois statehouse, Gov. Rod Blagojevich has once again vetoed legislation that could bring an end to split speed limits in the state. The issue, however, may not be dead yet.

Blagojevich used his veto stamp Monday, Aug. 20, on a bill that sought to eliminate the provision in state law that set up slower speed limits on rural interstates for vehicles weighing more than 8,000 pounds. Currently, those vehicles are required to travel 10 mph below the 65 mph speed limit for other vehicles.

The vetoed bill – SB540 – would have allowed the Illinois Department of Transportation to increase large truck speeds to as much as 65 mph.

This spring marked the third time in recent years that House and Senate lawmakers sent a uniform speed limit bill to Blagojevich. As was the case with the previous efforts, the margin of support in both chambers was more than the two-thirds majority needed for a veto override.

In his veto message, the governor made it clear he doesn’t want trucks traveling at higher rates of speed.

“This bill compromises safety by allowing trucks to travel at higher speeds. I remain opposed to increasing the speed limit to 65 miles per hour for large trucks,” Blagojevich wrote.

While not unexpected, the latest veto is a setback to the Owner-Operator Independent Drivers Association and other trucking industry officials who have fought for the bill’s passage for years. They cite federal statistics showing that split speed limits actually lead to more accidents.

Rep. Robert Flider, D-Decatur, the bill’s House sponsor, cited those concerns as reasoning for taking up the effort.

“Studies have shown that uniform speed limits are safer in many instances. There are occurrences of a car driver coming upon a truck and suddenly realizing that truck is driving a lot slower. That can create some challenges on a busy highway,” Flider said. “It seems to me, and I think studies have concluded, uniform speed limits actually would be safer as long as everybody follows the speed limit.”

Bill advocates could attempt an override this fall when the House and Senate return to the capitol for a veto session. The biggest obstacle to passage could be holding onto supporters who might be swayed after Blagojevich’s latest action.

OOIDA Executive Vice President Todd Spencer said history on the issue indicates that information offered to lawmakers during the next couple of months to change their support will be something for advocates of uniform speeds to contend with.

“We know from previous experience that the basis for which the governor used to conclude a veto was in order will be misinformation,” Spencer said.

“Those who perpetuate that misinformation also will be communicating to lawmakers to discourage them from overriding the veto. Misinformation should not rule the day.”

For information on other legislative action in Illinois, click here.

– By Keith Goble, state legislative editor