Oberweis: Higher speed limit is 'will of the people'
State Sen. Jim Oberweis took his case for higher speed limits in urban areas to Illinois tollway board directors Thursday, but it's not clear if the idea gained traction.
The Sugar Grove Republican sponsored a bill signed by Gov. Pat Quinn this year raising the speed limit to 70 mph on expressways and tollways that now are marked 65 mph in rural Illinois, which goes into effect Jan. 1.
But limits on most highways in the metropolitan area will remain at 55 mph, although Oberweis contends that's not how the legislation should be interpreted.
Given that drivers on toll roads are normally traveling at speeds of 70 mph or higher, it's dangerous to maintain an artificially low ceiling, Oberweis argued.
"If you go 55 mph you're more likely to be in an accident and that's just wrong," he said. "It breeds contempt for other (traffic) laws."
Noting the legislation cleared the Senate and House easily, Oberweis said "the will of the people is clear. But I'm frustrated about bureaucratic pushback against implementing the will of the people."
Wheaton resident Steve Doner of the National Motorists Association, Illinois chapter, said traffic engineers think limits should be set based on the maximum speed at which 85 percent of motorists travel, and under that logic, 55 mph is endangering the public.
"Please, please listen to the science," Doner said.
Chairman Paula Wolff promised Oberweis and Doner that the board and staff members would review their recommendations.
But Executive Director Kristi Lafleur said that the tollway was following the advice of its traffic experts by currently adhering to the 55 mph limits in urban areas.
"Prevailing speeds, roadway congestion, crash data ... it all goes into the analysis," she said.
Lafleur added that the agency was planning to revisit speeds on some urbanized sections, such as a stretch of the Tri-State Tollway (I-94) near Wisconsin and on the Jane Addams Tollway (I-90) once widening and reconstruction there is completed.