Pennsylvania begins switch to 70-mph speed limits

By Keith Goble, Land Line state legislative editor | 7/25/2014

In an effort billed to improve transportation efficiency, the Pennsylvania Turnpike posted 70 mph speed limits this week along a 100-mile portion of the roadway. Additional roadways are slated to have 65-mph speed limits increased by 5 mph.

The Turnpike’s new 70 mph speeds were posted on Tuesday, July 22, from Blue Mountain to Morgantown.

Turnpike CEO Mark Compton cautioned travelers to use restraint behind the wheel despite the 5-mph speed boost. He pointed out that 70 mph is the maximum speed, not the mandatory speed.

The Pennsylvania Department of Transportation also announced on Tuesday that two stretches of highway in northern Pennsylvania will soon be posted with 70-mph speeds.

Starting Aug. 11, Transportation Secretary Barry Schoch said that travelers will be allowed to travel 70 mph on an 88-mile stretch of Interstate 80 from Exit 101 in Clearfield County to mile marker 189 in Clinton County. Also set for an increase is a 21-mile section of I-380 from I-84 in Lackawanna County to exit 3 in Monroe County.

The speed increases are part of a pilot project approved last October as part of a $2.4 billion transportation funding plan. The new law permitted the Turnpike and state DOT to raise the speed limit to 70 mph.

Schoch said PennDOT will use data from the three affected stretches of roadway to determine where else the speed limit could be increased. Meanwhile, the agency will evaluate other sections of roadway posted at 65 mph for possible increases next year.

Compton said the higher speed on the Turnpike will be monitored for the next six to eight months.

“If everything goes well, I’d expect the remainder of the Turnpike will switch over to 70-mph speeds where appropriate and safe next spring,” Compton said in a news release.

Truckers in the state have voiced concern that higher speed limits will result in a wider disparity between the posted speed and how fast many speed-limited trucks can travel.

Speed changes are also coming to construction zones on affected stretches of the Turnpike. Travelers will no longer be required to slow to 40 mph in work zones. Instead, 55-mph speeds will be posted, according to State Police Lt. Edward Murphy.

“To ensure motorists heed the 55 mph work-zone speed limit, State Police will be conducting ‘Orange-Squeeze’ operations where troopers run radar inside construction vehicles instead of patrol cars,” Murphy stated.

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