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Article updated: 8/20/2013 5:31 AM

Most suburban highways exempt from new 70 mph limit

By Mike Riopell

The speed limit on most Chicago and suburban expressways will stay 55 mph even though a bill signed Monday by Illinois Gov. Pat Quinn will let drivers go 70 mph elsewhere in the state.

The raised speed limit, which goes into effect Jan. 1, applies to expressways and tollways currently marked 65 mph.

That includes relatively few segments within the metropolitan area, and county boards in Cook, Lake, Kane, McHenry, DuPage and Will counties can opt out of the 70 mph limit even on those highways.

The plan, from state Sen. Jim Oberweis, a Sugar Grove Republican, came because he said no one on the interstates followed the posted 65 mph speed limit anyway.

He said he isn't planning a future push to raise the limit further. Critics say drivers might still exceed the speed limit, even though it's higher.

"They already go over 75, quite frankly," Oberweis said. Still, he said, the change could reduce the number of tickets people get.

Earlier this summer, Cook County leaders said the transportation department will take a look at whether to opt out of the 70 mph limit for the highway segments where it would apply. A DuPage County spokeswoman said its transportation committee will probably take a look at it as well.

Quinn signed the plan into law even though the Department of Transportation and State Police objected to the idea in debates this spring. Safety advocates say higher speeds can lead to more and more dangerous wrecks.

The new law also lets police charge drivers with excessive speeding when they are going 26 mph over the posted limit, or 96 mph in the areas posted with a 70 mph limit. The current law is 31 mph over.

"This limited 5 mph increase will bring Illinois' rural interstate speed limits in line with our neighbors and the majority of states across America, while preventing an increase in excessive speeding," Quinn said in a statement. "I encourage all motorists to continue to respect our traffic laws, avoid distractions and exercise common sense behind the wheel to protect the safety of themselves and others."

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