Drivers who travel at 70 mph on Illinois toll roads will finally be legal effective in January in certain sections of the system.
Illinois State Toll Highway Authority directors agreed Thursday to post higher speed limits in 2014 in three less-populated areas of the Reagan Memorial (I-88), Tri-State (I-94) and Jane Addams (I-90) tollways.
Those benefiting include the Northern Illinois University community with limits going from 65 mph to 70 mph on I-88 west of Route 47 for 64 miles as far as Lee County. Drivers also will be able to go 70 mph on I-90 west of the I-39 interchange near Rockford for 15 miles.
And, on six miles of I-94 north of Stearns Road in Lake County the speed will increase from 55 mph to 65 mph. That speed should be lifted to 70 mph once Wisconsin enacts a similar policy change.
The new limits conform to a state law passed earlier this year and align with the Illinois Department of Transportation's timetable for updating its speed limit signs.
Asked if the change was irrelevant given that many people already drive at 70 mph or higher on toll roads, Executive Director Kristi Lafleur said motorists shouldn't ignore the existing law.
"We encourage drivers to pay attention to the speed limits and to the road conditions," she said. "People take risks when they're driving faster than the posted limits. That is why we're adding additional state police (in 2014) as a testament we take safety seriously."
In choosing the three locations, tollway engineers studied crash statistics, traveling speeds and road conditions. Other areas on the tollway system might see increases to 70 mph in the future, including sections under construction now.
The changes apply to all vehicles in the I-90 segment. But larger trucks will be required to abide by the 55 mph limit for trucks in that specific part of the Tri-State and in the Kane County portion of the I-88 area between Route 47 and DeKalb County.
The tollway's normal posted speed limits are 55 mph or 65 mph. In urban parts of the metropolitan region, limits are mostly 55 mph.