Motorists could soon be able to legally reach speeds of up to 70 mph on much of the Pennsylvania Turnpike.
A bill in the state House would allow the turnpike commission to increase the speed limit by 5 mph, from 65 mph.
Sponsored by state Rep. Joe Preston, D-Allegheny County, the bill was passed in the transportation committee last week.
"The bill gives them (the turnpike commission) permission to raise the (speed) limit," Preston said.
State Rep. Seth Grove, R-Dover Township, sits on the committee and voted in favor. The bill passed out of committee with an 18-4 vote.
It is expected to be debated on the House floor in the near future, Grove said.
Safer: Living in the Pittsburgh area and working in Harrisburg often, Preston has become familiar with the turnpike.
"I make the trip roughly 30 to 40 times a year," he said.
The turnpike is much safer than it once was, Preston said. Most the "S" curves have been straightened, and some steep embankments are no longer there. Automobiles are also safer, he added.
But the speed limit may not be increased on all parts of the turnpike. Preston said congested areas would likely remain at the 65 mph limit.
If Gov. Tom Corbett signs the bill into law and should the commission increase the speed limit, the bill allows for a review after its implemented.
The bill allows for the commission to review traffic collisions and other statistics generated from areas where the speed limit is increased one year after the proposed increase goes into effect, Preston said.
More drivers: When turnpike tolls increased at the start of the year, Grove said some motorists abandoned the turnpike, instead taking cross-state non-toll road highways. "Lots of truckers take Route 30 now," he said.
Commercial vehicles, such as tractor-trailers, pay a much higher toll than personal vehicles, like cars.
An increased speed limit would entice drivers back to the turnpike, which in turn would increase cash flow to the state's transportation coffers.
It could also decrease the number of commercial vehicles on other highways and roads in the state, which would maintain the 65 mph, Preston wrote in a memo to fellow representatives.
"It's (the limit increase) regarded as a way to bring drivers back on the turnpike," Grove said.
Limits: The speed limit on the turnpike hasn't been increased since 1995 when it jumped from 55 to 65 mph, according to the commission.
When the turnpike opened in 1940, it didn't have a speed limit. About a year later, the limit was set at 70 mph but was reduced to 35 mph toward the end of World War II to comply with a national speed limit.
It went back up after the war but decreased to 65 mph in the 1950s and was dropped to 55 mph in 1974 when the federal government instituted a national speed limit.
Some area drivers said they'd like to see the speed limit go back up to what it once was.
"People are paying to drive on the road. They ought to be able to go as fast at they want," said Tim Crisamore, a trucker from Jackson Township.
Overall, Larry Young of Manchester Township, said he's in favor of increasing the limit.
However, he said a 70 mph speed limit may not be ideal near urban areas, such as those in and around Philadelphia.
"There's parts of the turnpike where it would work," Young said.
- Reach Greg Gross at 505-5434, firstname.lastname@example.org, or follow him on Twitter at twitter.com/greggrss.