Madison, St. Clair counties can opt out of increasing speed limit

This is an archived article and the information in the article may be outdated. Please look at the time stamp on the story to see when it was last updated.

FAIRVIEW HEIGHTS, IL (KTVI)-- Come the New Year, 70 miles -per- hour will be the new law of the land on Illinois interstates, but maybe not in St. Clair and Madison Counties, the two largest counties near St. Louis.

The loophole that had drivers hopping mad Tuesday.

The stretch of I-64 through East St. Louis, Fairview Heights, and O'Fallon, is among the area's busiest.

Driver may crave the new limit there more than anywhere else.

Most drivers there seem to have a need for more speed; another 5 miles an hour ought to do it.

“Get the slow people off the roads and prevent wrecks, so motorcycles can just keep on going, they don’t have to worry about getting rear ended from slow drivers,” said motorcyclist, Mick Straub.

But hold on, not so fast.  Even though 70 will be the law of the Land of Lincoln, the counties with the 8  busiest highways, those nearest Chicago and St. Louis, can opt out, with the county boards and ultimately IDOT having the final say.

“When you raise the speed limit to 70, then people are going to drive 75 or 78,” said St. Clair County Board Chairman, Mark Kern.  “[The decision] really depends on the accidents that have occurred and where they’ve occurred.  All those records are held by IDOT and that’s why we’re going to work with them.”

Statewide fatal accidents have plunged over the last decade from 1454 in 2003, to 956 last year; that number ranged from 25 to 40 in St. Clair and Madison counties in recent years.  It hardly sounded like the change was on the “fast track” around here.

“A lot of areas you have heavy congestion, so in areas around O’Fallon and Fairview Heights on Hwy. 64, a lot of us know about the backups that occur at Christmas time and really throughout the year, those are areas that you probably wouldn’t want to increase the speed limit to 70,” Kern said.

“I don’t think it’s any more dangerous going 70 than it would be 65.  The difference is not that great.  If they were talking about jumping it to 90, I would reject that.  I grew up with 70 and 70 is good,” said driver, Chuck Means.

State Secretary of Transportation, Ann Schneider, has just issued a statement saying IDOT will implement the new law, but she’s the same person who railed against the change before the governor made it law, saying the higher the speed limit, the more crashes, the more crashes, the more likely you are to die in one.

County leaders and IDOT officials have until January 1, to opt out.

Email: Andy.Banker@tvstl.com
Follow me on Twitter: AndyBankerTV
Facebook:  Andy Banker on FOX2