Illinois bills that eliminate split speeds advance

| 3/12/2009

Illinois lawmakers again are moving forward with legislation that would bring an end to split speed limits on rural, interstate highways.

After years of failed attempts to have former Gov. Rod Blagojevich sign into law legislation to change the rule that requires large vehicles to travel 10 mph below the 65 mph speed limit for other vehicles, the proposal might stand a better chance now of becoming law, said Rep. Jil Tracy, R-Mount Sterling.

Just how good that chance might be is unclear because Gov. Pat Quinn hasn’t taken a position on the issue.

Tracy is the co-sponsor of a bill in the Illinois House that would allow vehicles weighing more than 8,000 pounds to travel 65 mph on highways outside Chicago and the six surrounding “collar” counties.

Sen. John Sullivan, D-Rushville, is the sponsor of a similar plan in the Illinois Senate. Both bills advanced from committee this week for initial consideration on their respective chamber floors. The bills are HB3956 and SB1467.

Supporters say eliminating the speed gap would improve safety on roadways, as well as benefit interstate commerce.

“The continuous movement of traffic would really be a boost for transportation and economic development. Safety would not be hindered,” Tracy told Land Line.

Tracy also pointed out that with the 55 mph limit a trucker cannot legally complete a turnaround from Chicago to St. Louis in one day.

“We are impeding his ability to work. We are impeding his ability to move product,” she said.

The latest action marks the fifth time in recent years that legislation to minimize or eliminate the speed gap between cars and trucks has been offered at the statehouse.

Two years ago, 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 because of safety concerns.

The Owner-Operator Independent Drivers Association and other trucking industry officials have fought for passage of the legislation for years. They cite federal statistics showing that split speed limits actually lead to more accidents.

“We applaud lawmakers in Illinois for their persistence,” OOIDA Executive Vice President Todd Spencer said.

To view other legislative activities of interest for Illinois in 2009, click here.

– By Keith Goble, state legislative editor

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