Indiana lawmakers advance speed bills

| Friday, February 11, 2005

House and Senate lawmakers have advanced two efforts that would allow faster speeds along the Indiana Toll Road and rural interstates. The bills would, however, maintain the state’s 5-mph speed differential for cars and big trucks.

The Senate voted 34-15 on Feb. 10 to send a bill to the House that would raise the speed limit from 60 mph to 65 mph for tractor-trailers and from 65 mph to 70 mph for all other vehicles on interstates outside areas with populations of at least 50,000.

Proponents say the state’s speed limits – particularly on those stretches of highway far from urban areas – are far out of step with the speeds that motorists are actually driving.

“We’re just trying to be realistic,” Sen. Greg Server, R-Evansville, said after the vote on SB217. “People are driving at this speed now.”

Meanwhile, the House Roads and Transportation Committee signed off on a measure that would authorize the higher speeds along the Indiana Toll Road. The bill – HB1393 – now moves to the full House for consideration.

The toll route bill, sponsored by Rep. Marlin Stutzman, R-Howe, is hopeful the speed boost will encourage more truck drivers to use the route.

Stutzman said several roads in his district have considerable amounts of truck traffic, including U.S. 6 and U.S. 20.

By hiking the speed limit, Stutzman told Fort Wayne’s Journal Gazette he hopes that trucks will find it worthwhile to pay the tolls if they will get to their destinations quicker.

“This bill simply hopes to move the truck traffic up to the Toll Road where they belong,” said Stutzman, who noted that the Toll Road is built for heavier traffic.

Indiana last raised the speed limit on its rural routes from 55 mph for all vehicles to 65 mph for cars and 60 mph for trucks in 1987 after Congress approved an exception to the 55-mph federal limit.

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