Pa. Turnpike Unveils Signs in New 70 MPH Zone. PA Internet News Service photo
Pa. Turnpike Unveils Signs in New 70 MPH Zone. PA Internet News Service photo

Portions of Interstate 83 are eligible to have posted speed limits of 70 mph, but it will be at least several months until that could possibly happen.

And even then, said Erin Waters-Trasatt, deputy press secretary for the state Department of Transportation, any decision to raise the speed limit would come after studying data from the pilot of two speed limit increases announced Wednesday.

The pilot includes more than 100 miles of two interstates in Pennsylvania, which will have increased speed limits of 70 mph for the first time.

The sections of interstate where speed limits will rise next month include 88 miles on Interstate 80 in northern Pennsylvania's Clearfield and Clinton counties and 21 miles of Interstate 380 in northeastern Pennsylvania's Lackawanna and Monroe counties, PennDOT announced Wednesday.

The news came a day after the Pennsylvania Turnpike Commission raised the speed limit on a 97-mile stretch of I-76 in central and eastern Pennsylvania from 65 mph to 70 mph. About three dozen states already have speed limits of 70 mph or higher.

The I-80 and I-380 changes are to take effect the week of Aug. 11. The sections of highway were selected because they provide a blend of urban and rural environments that will allow engineers to study the effect of the increased speed limits on crash history and work zones, Transportation Secretary Barry Schoch said.


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Benefits: Truckers will benefit by moving their products more efficiently, Schoch said. The increased speed limits are unlikely to affect motorists' travel speeds, since they already tend to travel at a speed at which they feel safe, Schoch said. Still, motorists will benefit because the higher speed limit will lower their risk of being ticketed, he said.

The most congested sections, such as around Pittsburgh and Philadelphia, will not see speed limits rise, Schoch said.

The department, with the help of the Pennsylvania Transportation Institute at Penn State, will study the new 70 mph stretches before deciding whether to create more 70 mph zones, or even whether to keep the zones being created next month, Schoch said. A similar process will happen with the turnpike.

Other highways where the speed limit is 65 mph could see increased limits next spring or summer, Schoch said. Those areas include more than 900 miles on interstates 78, 79, 81, 83, 84 and 90, plus Routes 15, 28, 219 and 220, according to PennDOT.

The impetus: The changes come after a transportation spending bill, passed in November, authorized increased speed limits on some highways. Several York legislators, including Rep. Ron Miller, R-Jacobus, said they would support bumping up the speed limit on I-83 if PennDOT determined it was safe.

Miller said he still is in favor of the change, because motorists already travel at 70 mph in some areas of I-83 and should be able to get to their destinations in an efficient way.

"I'm supportive of it, and as long as the study shows that it's doable, I think it should be done," he said.

— The Associated Press contributed to this report.