Ohio Turnpike raises speed limit to 70 mph for all vehicles

By David Tanner, Land Line associate editor | 12/20/2010

The Ohio Turnpike Commission voted Monday, Dec. 20, to raise the speed limit for trucks and cars to 70 mph effective April 1, 2011.

Ohio Turnpike Commission commissioners are hoping the 5 mph increase will give truckers an incentive to use the toll road. The speed limit on other major routes in the Buckeye State is 65 mph.

“Time is money for truckers. And we anticipate that the increased speed limit on the Ohio Turnpike will encourage commercial vehicles off of the congested, rural, two-lane country roads and onto the safer, well-maintained, well-designed Ohio Turnpike,” Commission Chairman Joseph Balog said in a statement.

OOIDA Senior Member Lewie Pugh of Freeport, OH, said the speed change will allow truckers to save a bit more time, and that could provide an incentive for some. Pugh said that most of the time when he is in the area, he chooses to run the turnpike.

“It saves me time and wear and tear on my equipment,” he said Monday. “I don’t like to pay a toll, but it’s a pretty nice road. And I save money by not having to speed up and slow down through all of the little towns.”

Speed limits have a long and detailed history in Ohio. Prior to 2004 on the Turnpike and prior to July 2009 on state routes and freeways, speed limits were split at 55 mph for trucks and 65 mph for cars.

Since the changes, the accident rate involving commercial vehicles has dropped 6.4 percent according to a commissioners’ report.

OOIDA supports uniform speed limits and fights against split speed proposals. Ohio and Illinois are two notable examples of where OOIDA members and leadership made a difference in getting split speeds overturned.

Speed limits and time savings are only part of the equation truckers use to determine whether to use a toll road. Another important threshold is price.

In studies prepared in 2007 for the Transportation Research Board, researchers Michael Belzer and Peter Swan used traffic data from the Ohio Turnpike to illustrate the threshold at which truckers would divert to secondary roads.

Belzer and Swan calculated that when tolls increased by 83 percent on the turnpike, 13 percent of the truck traffic diverted to alternate routes. The researchers then showed that much of the traffic returned to the turnpike when the toll rates were decreased.

The Ohio Turnpike Commission approved a toll increase in 2009 and provided a discount incentive for customers who have E-ZPass. The commission’s schedule calls for the next toll increase to occur in 2012. Tolls on the Ohio Turnpike are calculated according to a formula that includes the weight of the vehicle.

Commercial trucks account for 20 percent of the traffic on the Ohio Turnpike but 55 percent of the Turnpike’s revenue in a given year.

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