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County officials expect little to change with higher interstate speed limit

1 Vehicles are seen traveling east on Interstate 88 on Thursday from Shabbona Road in Malta Township. Gov. Pat Quinn approved legislation recently to raise the speed limit on rural interstates to 70 mph.
1 Vehicles are seen traveling east on Interstate 88 on Thursday from Shabbona Road in Malta Township. Gov. Pat Quinn approved legislation recently to raise the speed limit on rural interstates to 70 mph.

DeKALB – Doug Wallace hopes state politicians did their research when it came to raising the speed limit on rural interstate roadways to 70 mph. 

Wallace, of DeKalb, sees many ways the speed limit can impact drivers from an economic and safety standpoint. He said going faster can affect a car’s fuel efficiency and there is a danger with allowing people to drive faster.

“If you’re going faster, there’s more chances for collision and it’s going to be deadly,” he said. 

Wallace said he hopes politicians looked at how the 70 mph speed limit affected other states such as Indiana. Illinois drivers will have a chance to find out when the law goes into effect Jan. 1. 

Gov. Pat Quinn signed the law to increase the speed limit on interstate four-lane highways from 65 to 70 mph. At the same time, the limit for excessive speeding has been lowered by 5 mph. Drivers can be charged with excessive speeding for driving 26 mph over the speed limit.  

The law will align the state’s speed limit on interstate roadways with 36 other states, Quinn said in a news release. Neighboring states such as Iowa, Michigan, Indiana and Kentucky have speed limits set at 70 mph or higher on parts of their roadways. 

According to some DeKalb County highway and law enforcement officials, raising the speed limit should not cause much change for DeKalb County. The interstate roadways in or near the county are Interstate 88 near DeKalb, I-39 near Malta and I-90 near Genoa.

DeKalb County Engineer Nathan Schwartz said he doesn’t believe the county will be significantly impacted by the upcoming changes to the speed limits on interstate roadways. 

“I expect little effect on our local highways,” Schwartz said. 

The county highway department maintains 190 miles of highways and 45 bridge structures within the county road system, according to its website. 

Schwartz recalled one change made more than a decade ago to the speed limit in the state that did impact the county. He said there was a change to increase the speed limit to 65 mph, which required adjusting the roadways in the county. 

“That one had a potential impact because any time people are driving faster, you have to consider what the effect will be on the roads,” he said. 

The highway roads that were originally designed for a speed limit of 55 mph had to be revised for 65 mph. Those revisions included modifying the safety guard rails, the center line stripping on the roads and the signs at curves, he said. Signs at curves would have to be adjusted for people driving who need to stop to prevent a potential conflict, he said. 

DeKalb County Sheriff Chief Deputy Gary Dumdie said because the changes will occur in the interstate roadways, it will not affect the roadways the county sheriff’s office patrol in the county. The increased speed limit might affect the interstate closest to the county. 

“It will affect I-88 that runs through our county,” he said. 

Dumdie said the state police patrol I-88 and may request assistance from the county sheriff’s office at times. 

The legislation to raise the speed limit was sponsored by state Sen. Jim Oberweis and Rep. Jerry Costello Jr. The law will allow for other counties including Cook, DuPage, Kane and McHenry to opt out and set their own speed limit based on local needs. 

DeKalb resident Dexter Henry said his sister, who travels from Schaumburg to Chicago to DeKalb, is pleased with the new increase in the speed limit. For people like his sister who have far to travel, a little more leeway can help. 

“It helps with a lot of things,” Henry said. 

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