Pa. proposal would raise highway speed limit to 70

Joseph Scarnati: Plan would allow "more efficient delivery of goods and services."
Joseph Scarnati: Plan would allow "more efficient delivery of goods and services."
Posted: October 13, 2013

Following a national trend, Pennsylvania drivers could be legally permitted to drive 70 m.p.h. on the Pennsylvania Turnpike and other interstate highways, under a proposal made Friday by State Sen. Joseph Scarnati (R., Jefferson).

Such a move could return speed limits to levels not seen since the oil embargo of 1973 prompted Congress to prohibit speeds over 55 m.p.h. nationwide in an effort to save gas.

That law was repealed in 1995, and Pennsylvania raised its speed limit back to 65 m.p.h. The speed limit on urban interstates, such as I-95 through Philadelphia and the Schuylkill Expressway, remains 55 m.p.h.

When the Pennsylvania Turnpike opened in 1940, it had no posted speed limit. A speed limit of 70 m.p.h. was set in April 1941. In 1966, the turnpike limit was reduced to 65 m.p.h.

Now, 34 states have speed limits of 70 m.p.h. or higher, according to the Governors Highway Safety Association. Neighboring Ohio and West Virginia have 70 m.p.h. limits, while New Jersey and New York remain at 65.

Some roads in Texas have 85 m.p.h. limits, and some in Utah are posted for 80 m.p.h.

Scarnati said in a memo Friday to fellow senators that he was seeking cosponsors for a bill he will introduce soon to raise the speed limit.

He said "increasing Pennsylvania's maximum speed limit on interstate highways and the turnpike will allow for better traffic flow and more efficient delivery of goods and services throughout the commonwealth."

Speed limits would remain at current levels unless engineering and traffic studies by the Pennsylvania Department of Transportation or Turnpike Commission found that a higher speed limit was reasonable and safe, Scarnati said.

AAA-MidAtlantic, the auto club, said it supported the higher speed-limits where studies show they are justified, spokeswoman Jenny Robinson said.

PennDot will look at the legislation more closely once it is formally introduced, said department spokeswoman Erin Waters-Trasatt.

The Turnpike Commission is "comfortable" with Scarnati's proposal, since it would permit but not require a higher speed limit, said spokesman Carl DeFebo.

Scarnati said new automobile technology and other safety improvements have led to fewer traffic deaths, even as states have raised their speed limits.

In Pennsylvania, there were 1,310 traffic fatalities in 2012, 24 more than in 2011. The fewest deaths since 1944 were recorded in 2009, when 1,256 people were killed in vehicle crashes in the state.


pnussbaum@phillynews.com

215-854-4587

@nussbaumpaul

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