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Little concern from officials over Pa. speed limit increase

Christopher Dornblaser
717-505-5436/@YDDornblaser

Local officials are not too concerned about the upcoming increase in speed limit on Pennsylvania's highways.

Last week, Pennsylvania's Secretary of Transportation announced 70 mph speed limits will come to the Pennsylvania Turnpike and interstate highways in May. The change won't happen in more urban areas where the speed limit is 55 mph, such as the stretch of Interstate 83 close to York City. Areas with 65 mph speed limits will most likely see the new speed limit.

State Rep. Kristin Phillips-Hill, R-York Township, said one of her biggest concerns regarding the change is the safety of first responders.

Kristin Phillips-Hill

"Probably half of the calls that our volunteer fire companies take are traffic incidents," she said.

Despite her concerns, Phillips-Hill said she's confident enough research went into the decision.

"They've done a lot of studies, this wasn't implemented without a lot of thought," she said. “Any time you make these kind of changes, the paramount concern is the safety of the residents, the folks traveling on those roads and our first responders."

State police spokesman Adam Reed said the speed limit increase will not change much for state troopers.

“We’ll be there to enforce it, whatever they deemed it appropriate to be,” he said.

Even though the speed limit is increasing in certain areas, Reed thinks the risk of getting hit while pulling someone over or responding to an emergency situation while on the job is about the same as usual.

"That's a dangerous part of the job we do," he said, adding that if people do see an emergency response vehicle they should do their best to move over.

Wayne Harper, the director of Center for Traffic Safety in York, said he had no comment on the increased speed limit, instead referring all comments to Fritzi Schreffler, the safety press officer for PennDOT. Schreffler could not be reached for comment.

A 70 mph test was done on a 100-mile stretch between Morgantown and Blue Mountain, where officials did not find a noticeable increase in the average speed of vehicles. They also found a decrease in traffic accidents even though there was an increase in traffic.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

— Reach Christopher Dornblaser at cdornblaser@yorkdispatch.com.