Seven states take steps to raise speeds

By Keith Goble, Land Line state legislative editor | Tuesday, November 26, 2013

State lawmakers in nearly 10 states stretching from the northeast to the Midwest are taking steps to adopt faster speeds on various roadways. OOIDA leadership says it’s imperative for road safety that any changes made to driving speeds promote uniformity.

A new Pennsylvania law authorizes higher speed limits on the state’s interstate highways and the Turnpike. Speeds on the affected roadways could be increased from 65 mph to 70 mph for all vehicles.

Before new speed limit signs are posted sometime next year, PennDOT and the Turnpike Commission will conduct their own traffic and engineering studies to determine the safety of speed changes.

Senate President Pro Tem Joe Scarnati, R-Jefferson, got the ball rolling at the statehouse to raise the speed limit.

He said in a news release that raising the speed limit on interstates and the Turnpike “will allow for better traffic flow and provide for greater efficiency in the delivery of goods.”

In Wisconsin, a bill halfway through the statehouse would increase speed limits on rural interstates but could leave truck speeds unchanged. Specifically, the bill would raise the speed limit from 65 to 70 mph.

Rep. Paul Tittl, R-Manitowoc, told Land Line the change is needed to keep up with other states that already authorize vehicles to travel at least 70 mph.

“We are an island all the way from Oregon to Pennsylvania,” Tittl said.

He said the Wisconsin Department of Transportation would make the final decision on sections of interstate where speed increases would be suitable.

A change made on the Assembly floor would authorize WisDOT to consider whether the maximum speed for large trucks should remain at 65 mph.

Tittl said the provision was a compromise with others who oppose a speed limit increase for large trucks.

Two Florida state lawmakers filed a bill for the upcoming session that could increase the posted speed on various highways for all vehicles.

Florida law authorizes cars and trucks to travel 70 mph on interstates. Drivers can travel 65 mph on highways with a divided median and 60 mph on other roadways.

The bill offered for consideration in the 2014 regular session would increase allowable speeds on the types of highway by 5 mph to 75, 70 and 65 mph, respectively.

Sen. Jeff Brandes, R-St. Petersburg, says the change would bring the speed limit more into line with how fast traffic already travels in the state.

The Florida Department of Transportation would have the final say on any speed changes.

Sen. Jeff Clemens, D-Lake Worth, said that a 5-mph increase is unlikely to hinder road safety, “but we’ll let the experts do their job.”

New York state Assemblyman Luis Sepulveda wants to authorize 75 mph speeds as well.

The Bronx Democrat offered a bill that would permit the transportation commissioner to raise the 65 mph speed limit to 75 mph on any interstate highway, including the New York Thruway.

Speeds could also be increased from 55 to 65 mph on divided highways with at least four lanes.

The Bronx Democrat wrote in a bill memo studies show that fewer wrecks occur when the speed limit is increased.

Advocates say that speeds should be set at a rate that more closely reflects the 85th percentile rule. In most instances, that amounts to a speed of about 73 mph.

A Kentucky bill would increase speeds on four-lane highways from 55 to 65 mph where feasible.

Multiple chambers of commerce in southwest Kentucky have requested the change citing the benefits of allowing commerce to move more quickly.

In New Hampshire, a new rule in effect Jan. 1, 2014, authorizes a boost in the speed limit along an 80-mile portion of Interstate 93 north of Concord. The rule change increases speeds for all vehicles from 65 to 70 mph from mile marker 45 near Canterbury to the Vermont border.

Gov. Maggie Hassan said the rule change brings the speed limit more in line with the habits of truckers and other drivers traveling in rural areas.

Truckers and others using many of Illinois’ rural roadways and tollways will be authorized to drive a little faster starting Jan. 1. The speed limit will be raised from 65 to 70 mph on rural four-lane highways and most portions of the Illinois Tollway.

“This limited 5 miles-per-hour increase will bring Illinois’ rural interstate speed limits in line with our neighbors and the majority of states across America,” Gov. Pat Quinn stated.

The number of Illinois highways where new speeds are authorized could change. Cook and the “collar” counties surrounding Chicago, and Madison and St. Clair counties outside of St. Louis can opt out of the rule change.

Trucks will continue to be limited to 55 mph on the northern portion of the Tri-State Tollway, and an eight-mile segment of Interstate 88 in Kane County.

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