Effort rekindled to end split speed limit in Illinois

| 3/26/2007

For the third time in recent years, legislation offered in Illinois calls for bringing an end to split speed limits on the state's interstate highways.

Rep. Robert Flider, D-Decatur, and Sen. John Sullivan, D-Rushville, have taken up the battle to eliminate the provision 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. If approved, the new rule would clear all vehicles to drive 65 mph.

Flider's bill - HB1786 - and Sullivan's bill - SB540 - would allow the Illinois Department of Transportation to increase large truck speeds to as much as 65 mph.

Flider made it clear that even if the bill is signed into law it doesn't guarantee elimination of the speed gap.

"The bill allows the state to consider authorizing uniform speeds. It wouldn't mandate a change, but just to consider it," Flider told Land Line.

The bills have advanced through committees to their respective chamber's floor for further consideration. Despite widespread support to this point in the legislative session, the forecast for the legislation is cloudy.

Attempts in 2003 and 2004 to get uniform speed legislation enacted were met with vetoes by Gov. Rod Blagojevich. In both instances the House and Senate initially approved the legislation by veto-proof margins.

In 2003, the House had first crack at an override attempt only to fall two votes shy of the margin needed to hand the bill off to the Senate for further consideration. A year later, enough Senators stayed together to pull off an override but several lawmakers in the House switched their votes in support of the governor's position.

Blagojevich said at the time he fears that faster trucks would mean bloodier accidents because the force of impact is stronger the faster a vehicle is traveling, The Associated Press reported.

OOIDA and other trucking industry officials have fought for the bill's passage for years. They cite federal statistics showing that split speed limits actually lead to more accidents.

Flider cited those concerns as reasoning for introducing the bill.

"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."

The biggest obstacle to passage again could be getting it past the governor.

"We're not sure what the mood in the governor's office will be," Flider said.

At press time, the governor's office hadn't returned Land Line's call seeking a comment on the matter.

- By Keith Goble, state legislative editor