Illinois considers higher car speeds on Chicago-area tollways

| Friday, September 26, 2003

Illinois officials are studying raising the speed limit on portions of the state's toll highways in the Chicago area – but the higher speed would only apply to cars.

Currently, most of the toll interstates in the Chicago area are 55 mph; in rural parts of the state, the speed limit is 65 mph, but only for cars. Trucks are limited to 55 mph on those roads. Any increase in speeds near Chicago would increase the number of highways covered by the state's split speed limit.

The 65 mph generally stops at the Fox River, which flows south from Wisconsin through McHenry, Kane and Kendall counties in Illinois. The river is roughly 30 miles from the western edge of Chicago and runs through the far western suburbs of the city.

Tollway spokeswoman Kathleen Cantillon told The Chicago Sun Times that the proposal, if it moves ahead, would bring the higher speed for cars closer to the city of 2.8 million people. That would also put the higher car speed directly within some of its most densely packed suburbs.

“We're thinking about moving it in,” she said, “but it all comes down to safety.”

Some of the roads that might be considered for higher speeds, according to The Sun Times, include:

  • The Northwest Tollway, which is 55 from Elgin into the city now;
  • The East-West Tollway, which is 55 from Aurora into the city;
  • The Tri-State, which is 55 from Waukegan on the north into the city;
  • The North-South, which tollway Executive Director Jack Hartman described as "more of a straightaway."

Cantillon told The Associated Press that the change was not likely to occur any time in the near future. Another spokeswoman for the authority confirmed that the higher speed is under study, but that no decisions had been made yet.

A bill in the state, HB1186, would have ended the split speed limit on 65 mph highways. It passed both houses of the General Assembly, but was vetoed by Gov. Rod Blagojevich. Bill supporters have said they will attempt to override the veto in November.

--by Mark H. Reddig, associate editor

Mark Reddig can be reached at mreddig@landlinemag.com.

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