by Steve Doner, Former Illinois Chapter Coordinator for the National Motorists Association
The 70 mph speed limit bill recently signed by the governor starts to undo some of the damage done by the national 55 mph limit which was established in 1973. Illinois had a 70 mph speed limit 40 years ago and it was not just for rural interstates. Most state highways, even two lane highways, had limits higher than the 55 mph that is still in place on metro Chicago’s toll roads and other interstates.
After reading the recent Illinois speed limit bill and discussing it with sponsor Jim Oberweis it is clear to me that the bill was intended to cover, and should apply to, metro Chicago for many of the same reasons that it makes sense for rural areas. The house and senate overwhelmingly passed it as such. The speed limit for all metro Chicago interstates will revert to 70 mph unless IDOT produces an engineering study showing the new limit it to be unsafe. County boards may also have the ability to block the new limit.
If IDOT abides by the sound traffic engineering principles espoused by transportation and police departments across the country and around the world, it is nearly certain that the findings would dictate a speed limit of 70 mph (or higher) for metro Chicago expressways, with the possible exception of those within the city limits. Certainly the 70 mph limit should apply to I-294 and all routes West, North and South of I-294.
IDOT should increase the metro Chicago limits and the county boards should stand aside. All the evidence indicates that there would be no negative impact on safety. In fact, the opposite is true. Overall metro Chicago highway safety would be improved. Here’s why: