As of January 1, nearly 90 percent of Illinois’ interstate highway miles have 70 mph speed limits. However, in much of the Chicago area, the existing speed limits will not be changed, according to a map released by the Illinois Department of Transportation (IDOT).
The sponsor of the law that raised speed limits said that Chicago-area limits should also be raised.
On nearly 1,900 of almost 2,170 miles of Illinois interstate highways, the speed limit is now 70 mph, an increase from a generally 65 mph limit for rural interstates. However, only approximately 30 percent of the 286-mile Illinois Tollway’s network will see an increased speed limit. Also, according to IDOT, only five relatively short sections of interstate in the Chicago area will have their speed limits raised, leaving the 55 mph speed limit in much of the Chicago area unchanged.
State Sen. Jim Oberweis, Republican of Sugar Grove, sponsored the bill that raised the speed limit. He said the limit should be raised in the Chicago area as well. IDOT had the authority to create the speed limit map, but Oberweis said the department is putting “citizens into danger.”
According to Oberweis, 85 percent of vehicles are traveling 70 mph or faster on most interstate highways, and the variation in speed limits can be a factor in automobile accidents. He said that by not raising the speed limit in most of the Chicago area, IDOT was ignoring “the will of the people.” Oberweis owns a dairy that operates trucks on the highways.
A recent analysis by the Chicago Tribune found that the “actual” speed limit in the Chicago area — the speed at which most drivers are ticketed — is 80 mph. The Tribune’s research found that 90 percent of vehicles exceed the posted 55 mph speed limit on the tollway, where the average speed is 66-70 mph.
In a statement, IDOT claimed that the speed limit would be raised on stretches of interstate highway where it is deemed safe and reasonable. IDOT said it considered the 85th percentile (the widely accepted standard of the speed at which 85 percent of vehicles are moving at or below) and other considerations. According to the IDOT statement, the department’s top priority is driver safety, and it will continue reviewing speed limits as needed.
Oberweis said that he will attempt to bring his drive for higher Chicago-area speed limits to the legislature. He said that 70 mph is a reasonable, safe and consistent speed, but that he may settle for a limit of 65 mph.