Bill would raise speed limit to 70; metro-east counties could opt out

News-DemocratApril 25, 2013 

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A bill that has won approval in the state Senate would raise the speed limit to 70 mph on interstates in Illinois, but not necessarily in St. Clair and Madison counties.

The bill would allow St. Clair, Madison, Cook and some Chicago collar counties to opt out and keep the speed limit on their interstates at the current 65 mph.

Senate Bill 2536, sponsored by Sen. Jim Oberweis, R-Sugar Grove, passed 41-6 on Tuesday in the Senate and now goes to the House.

"This is a bipartisan, good-government bill, which would allow the maximum speed limit on tollways and interstate highways to increase to 70 mph -- to bring Illinois in line with most of the rest of the country," Oberweis said. "The interstates were designed for a higher rate of speed, and currently, there are 34 states with speed limits of 70 mph or higher. All of Illinois' neighboring states, except Wisconsin, have speed limits of 70 mph."

Oberweis said 15 states have speed limits of 75 mph and one state has a speed limit of 85 mph.

Those voting against the bill included Sen. Dave Luechtefeld, R-Okawville.

"If you travel the highways a lot, you'll find that trucks and cars are already running 74, 75 mph. There's already sort of a grace period there," Luechtefeld said. "If you move it to 70, do they run 80? That's pretty fast."

Other opponents include the Illinois Department of Transportation and some motorist safety organizations, which argue that higher speeds lead to more fatalities.

If the House passes the bill, it would go to Gov. Pat Quinn, whose spokeswoman on Thursday said the governor is undecided.

"He has some safety concerns," Quinn spokeswoman Brooke Anderson said. "The governor will review the bill and consider it if it arrives at his desk."

At the request of Illinois State Police, the bill also lowers the threshold at which the penalty for speeding is increased from a petty offense to a misdemeanor. Speeding in excess of 26 mph but less than 35 mph (currently 31-40 mph) would be a class B misdemeanor. Speeding in excess of 35 mph (currently 40 mph) would be a class A misdemeanor.

How metro-east senators voted:

Sen. James Clayborne, D-Belleville: Didn't vote

Sen. Bill Haine, D-Alton: Yes

Sen. Dave Luechtefeld, R-Okawville: No

Sen. Kyle McCarter, R-Lebanon: Yes

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