No PEDAL to the METAL here

Speed limits up statewide but suburbs and city remain slow spots

Drivers can now put that pedal a little closer to the metal in Illinois.

The state bowed to reality during 2013 as the Illinois General Assembly boosted speed limits from 65 to 70 miles per hour on interstate highways outside the immediate Chicago area.

But whether drivers actually obey the new limits remains to be be seen.

A new law took effect last week that lifted legal speed limits from 65 to 70 miles-per-hour on interstate highways throughout Illinois, including Interstate 88 from western Kane County to the Quad Cities.

Portions of Interstates 80, 55 and 57 in Will County also had speed bumps, but only outside suburban areas.

“I sponsored the new law to update speed limits to reflect the reality of current driving speeds in Illinois and other states,” said State Sen. Jim Oberweis (R-Sugar Grove).

All of Illinois’ neighboring states, except Wisconsin, have speed limits of 70 mph,  Oberweis pointed out.
Fifteen states have speed limits of 75 mph and one has a limit of 85 mph.

But drivers in the immediate Chicago area will still have to abide by the old 55 mile-per-hour limits according to an Illinois Department of Transportation guidelines announced last week.

But whether it’s 55, 65 or 70, the de facto speed limit in Illinois is actually higher. 

Or, as rocker Sammy Hagar once sang: “I can’t drive 55!”

A recent Chicago Tribune study of speeding tickets over the last four years found 60 percent of those ticketed were driving 80 miles per hour. Another report found that one in seven drivers typically traveled at least 20 miles over the posted limit.

Oberweis, elected to the Illinois Senate in 2012, knows that from personal experience as he regularly commutes from the Aurora area to Springfield.

“The traffic is moving at 70-75 mph,” he recently said on a WLS-AM talk show. “I think it’s bad to have laws on our books that are widely ignored by our citizens of Illinois. I think it does help to bring Illinois into the 21st century along with our neighboring states.”

The Oberweis-sponsored Senate Bill 2356 was signed into law by Gov. Pat Quinn in August after overwhelmingly passing both legislative chambers It called for new  maximum speed limits on Illinois interstate highways were deemed reasonable and safe.

The new law allows counties to opt out of the new limits, but Oberweis said that counties would have to pass specific legislation to lower the limits. Otherwise, the new maximum should also apply to Chicago area interstates.

IDOT said the approximately 87 percent of Interstate highways and 98 percent of rural Interstates under IDOT’s jurisdiction will be increased to 70 mph. 

Approximately 28 percent of the Tollway’s 286-mile system will be increased to 70 mph.  

IDOT and the Illinois Tollway will continue to review any roadway speed limit as needed, including monitoring changing traffic behaviors and the completion of construction projects. 

“We remind our customers to always obey the posted speed limit while driving on the Tollway and all Illinois roads,” said Kristi Lafleur, Illinois Tollway Executive Director. “The new 70 mph speed limit goes into effect on segments of our system that can accommodate the higher speed while still maintaining the safety of our customers, which is always our primary concern.” 

IDOT was scheduled to install the new 70 mph signs between Jan. 7-14 on a 64-mile segment of the Reagan Memorial Tollway (I-88) and on a 15-mile portion of the Jane Addams Memorial Tollway (I-90) at a cost of about $18,000. 

Other interstates were scheduled to have new signage installed starting on Jan. 2.


—Jack McCarthy