A bill has been sent to Illinois Governor Pat Quinn that would raise the state’s speed limit on rural interstate highways to 70 mph from the current 65 mph.
Supporters of the change said that an increase in the speed limit would be a boon for the trucking industry and would bring Illinois in line with nearby states, but opponents said that the change would result in more traffic fatalities.
According to Rep. C.D. Davidsmeyer, a Jacksonville Republican, some drivers traveling south from Chicago avoid driving through Illinois because the lower speed limit increases travel time. Davidsmeyer said this results in the state missing out on revenue from motorists’ gas and food purchases.
However, House Majority Leader Barbara Flynn Currie, a Chicago Democrat, said that both the state police and the Illinois Department of Transportation opposed the bill because the higher speed limit would endanger drivers’ lives. Rep. Deb Mell, also a Chicago Democrat, said that increasing the speed limit to 70 mph would not greatly reduce travel time.
Speeding was the cause of the majority of the 900 traffic fatalities in Illinois last year. Higher speed limits are opposed by the Governors Highway Safety Association, the American Automobile Association and the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety.
The change would also come with the cost of replacing about 900 speed limit signs, which the state transportation department estimates will be about $200,000, including the cost of manufacturing the signs and the labor involved in replacing them.
Gov. Quinn’s office said that the bill will be carefully reviewed. The governor’s office had earlier said that there were safety concerns involved with the bill. However, the bill received broad support in both houses of the state legislature. In the Senate, the vote was 41-6 in favor of the proposed legislation, and 36 votes would be needed to override a veto. The House voted 85-30 in favor of the bill, with 71 votes necessary to override a veto in that chamber.
Thirty-four states have a maximum speed limit of 70 mph or higher, and Illinois is currently among 16 states with a 65 mph maximum. If the current bill becomes law, the change would take effect on January 1, 2014. Where interstate highways enter urban areas, the speed limit would continue to be lower, and the bill provides that six counties surrounding Chicago and two Illinois counties near St. Louis may keep all interstate speeds at 65 mph via local ordinance.