St. Clair and Madison county leaders are taking a close look at a new law increasing the speed limit on rural interstates.
Gov. Pat Quinn signed the measure into law Monday increasing the speed limit on four-lane divided highways from 65 to 70 mph beginning Jan. 1.
County boards in eight urban counties, including St. Clair and Madison counties, have the option to "opt-out" of the new law by passing an ordinance lowering the speed limit within specific areas.
St. Clair County Board Chairman Mark Kern said in an email that "we are currently working with (the Illinois Department of Transportation) to ensure that any changes will be evaluated and will be appropriate and safe for the general public."
St. Clair County has more than 48 miles of interstate that vary drastically in the amount of traffic, according to state traffic studies conducted in 2011.
For example, more than 127,000 vehicles travel daily on Interstate 64 where the interstate combines with Interstate 55-70 near East St. Louis. The number of vehicles traveling daily on Interstate 64 drops to 77,500 in Fairview Heights and 33,000 east of Shiloh.
St. Clair County Board member Mike Baker, a Democrat representing Mascoutah, said he supports increasing the speed limit along the rural stretch of Interstate 64 north of the city.
"In rural areas like ours, 70 mph makes sense," Baker said. "The majority of the country already runs at 70."
Nationwide, 36 other states have speed limits of 70 mph or faster on interstates. Of states neighboring Illinois, only Wisconsin has a speed limit below 70 mph on interstates.
Interstate 64 includes more than 26 miles of interstate in St. Clair County, a majority of the county's 48 total miles of interstates.
Madison County has about 74 miles of interstate, the majority of which is Interstate 70 with more than 31 miles of roadway.
Madison County Board Chairman Alan Dunstan said he does not see a reason to lower the speed limit, but he will have the County Board's Transportation Committee review the measure.
"I don't see us opting out of it at this time," Dunstan said. "I don't know if we want somebody coming through the whole state at 70 miles per hour, then come to the county line and have to slow down to 65."
Madison County staff interpret the new law as only affecting two rural stretches of interstate in the county: a portion of Interstate 55 from the northern boundary of the county to Edwardsville and a stretch of Interstate 70 from Troy to Highland.
The new law also allows state transportation officials to lower the speed limit should they believe a stretch of road is dangerous.
Contact reporter Daniel Kelley at firstname.lastname@example.org or 618-239-2501.