SPRINGFIELD – Illinoisans soon may be able legally to drive 70 miles per hour on rural interstate highways under a proposal now approved by both the Illinois House and Senate.
The House approved a proposed speed limit increase Wednesday by a 85-30 vote, and the Senate approved the proposal by a 41-6 vote in April.
The measure now requires Illinois Gov. Pat Quinn's signature to become law. If signed, it would take effect Jan. 1, 2014.
The governor's office recently said Quinn "has some safety concerns about raising the speed limit and will review the bill if it reaches his desk."
The current speed limit in Illinois is 65 mph, but 34 other states have set the limit at 70 mph or higher, said House proposal sponsor state Rep. Jerry Costello, D-Smithton.
Costello said studies show when Colorado and California raised their speed limit from 65 mph to 70 mph, "fatalities and injury crashes went down because people moved from highways, which are not as safe, to interstate highways."
He noted that Illinois set its 65 mph limit for cars in 1987. Since then, highway and automotive engineering has made driving safer. "They are designed to go faster."
Costello said a speed limit increase can make traffic flow more consistent, thus safer.
"The average person on the interstate in the United States drives 72 to 74 miles an hour, regardless if the speed limit is set at 65 or if the speed limit is 70," Costello said.
"What you have is two classes of citizens, the people who are trying to follow the speed limit at 65, and 85 percent of people who are driving 72, 73, 74 miles per hour," he said. "It is safer if we close that disparity in speeds."
But opponents noted that the Illinois state police and Illinois Department of Transportation Secretary Ann Schneider are against the measure. Schneider has urged that raising the limit will increase the average speed because drivers tend to drive 5 to 10 mph above posted limits.
Only one area representative – state Rep. Dan Brady, R-Bloomington – voted against the proposal.
Among those voting for the increase were state Reps. Mike Bost, R-Murphysboro; John Bradley, D-Marion; Adam Brown, R-Decatur; Costello; Brad Halbrook, R-Mattoon; Bill Mitchell, R-Forsyth; Brandon Phelps, D-Harrisburg; David Reis, R-Willow Hill; Sue Scherer, D-Decatur; Mike Smiddy, D-Hillsdale; and Pat Verschoore, D-Milan.
A speed increase from 65 mph to 70 mph would shave about 20 minutes off a 364-mile trip from Moline to Marion traveled on rural Interstates 74 and 57.
The measure is SB2356.