PA Turnpike to increase speed limit to 70 mph

The Associated Press

After studying the issue for more than 18 months, the Pennsylvania Turnpike Commission voted Tuesday to increase the speed limit on most of the toll road to 70 mph from the current 65.

The change, expected to go into effect in the spring, will increase the maximum speed in areas that have a 65 mph limit now. Areas that now are posted at 55 mph — tunnel approaches, tunnels and certain toll booth areas — will remain at 55.

“There’s more consistency for our motorists with only two speed limits, 55 and 70,” said turnpike spokesman Carl DeFebo. “The easy way to look at it is this: Everything that is 55 mph stays 55 mph and everything 65 mph becomes 70 mph.”

In July 2014, the commission announced it would test the 70-mph limit to see whether it would be ”feasible, reasonable and make sense from a safety standpoint,” Mr. DeFebo said. One reason for considering the change was the turnpike’s effort over the past decade to widen the roadway in many areas from two lanes in each direction to three, which improves safety, he said.

The test took place on a 100-mile stretch between Morgantown and Blue Mountain in the south-central part of the state for six to eight months. Mr. DeFebo said state engineers then asked to extend the study period while they examined the effect on traffic.

What they found, he said, was that there was not a marked increase in the actual average speed of vehicles in the test area. Despite an increase in traffic, there also was a decrease in traffic accidents, he said.

“This [70-mph limit] reflects what people drive in reality,” Mr. DeFebo said. “People are comfortable traveling at that speed.”

In anticipation of the new speed limit, the commission already has installed black-and-gold markers known as chevrons to make curves easier to see, Mr. DeFebo said. New speed limit signs will have to be installed across the 450 miles of toll road before the limit can be increased.

PennDOT is conducting a similar study on parts of Interstate 80 and Interstate 380.

The Governors Highway Safety Association said 34 other states have a 70-mph speed limit in some areas. The federal government eliminated the national speed limit in 1995 and turned over speed controls to individual states.