If Gov. Pat Quinn eventually OKs a plan to raise the tollway and interstate speed limit to 70 mph, the final decision on how fast suburban drivers can go could end up in front of local county boards.
The plan approved by lawmakers this year would allow suburban county boards to opt out of the higher 70 mph limit, potentially leading to a patchwork of different speed limits on some highways.
Contact information ( * required )
Most officials say they aren't thinking that far ahead. However, state Sen. Jim Oberweis, a Sugar Grove Republican who got the bill moved through the legislature, says he'd lobby for uniformity.
"When traffic is clear, everything moves at 70 mph anyway," Oberweis said.
The speed limit now is 65 mph on rural interstate highways and 55 mph on interstates and tollways in urban areas.
Kane County Board Chairman Chris Lauzen said he's not focused on the speed limit issue, and a spokeswoman for DuPage County said officials there would probably run it through the county transportation committee for a recommendation. Same for Cook County Board President Toni Preckwinkle.
"The Cook County Department of Transportation and Highways will evaluate the potential impact of this legislation," said spokeswoman Kristen Mack. "We will work with the Board of Commissioners to determine whether opting out is the best course of action for county residents."
Oberweis offered to go to county board meetings to talk about it if they want him to.
He said he spoke to Quinn briefly when lawmakers were in Springfield last month, but Quinn didn't tip his hand on whether he'll sign the speed limit increase.
The Democratic governor could see raising the speed limit as a popular move as he's facing a tough 2014 re-election bid. But the Illinois Department of Transportation and the state police under his control have opposed the faster limit for safety reasons.
Lake County Board Chairman Aaron Lawlor said that while the final decision would be up to the county board, he doesn't think he'd oppose the higher limit.
"I'm personally not too concerned about it," Lawlor said. "In peak hours, no one's going 70 miles per hour."
If different county boards have different opinions, roads could end up with varying speed limits depending on what county a driver is in. Oberweis doesn't think that would be a big problem unless a limit changed twice on one road.
It could be confusing for a driver on I-90, for example, if the speed limit went from 70 mph in McHenry County to 55 mph in Kane County and back up to 70 mph in Cook County, he said.