PA Turnpike officials weigh 70 mph statewide

HARRISBURG - The speed limit on much of the Pennsylvania Turnpike could rise to 70 m.p.h. by next summer, state officials said Wednesday.

The move comes as state transportation officials increase travel speeds on several interstate highways, including sections of I-80 in northern Pennsylvania and I-380 in northeastern Pennsylvania, which will go to 70 next month.

A 100-mile stretch of the turnpike, between the Blue Mountain interchange (Exit 201) and the Morgantown interchange (Exit 298), in the southwestern part of the state climbed from 65 to 70 Wednesday.

There are no plans to raise speed limits on other highways around urban areas like Philadelphia and Pittsburgh, said Transportation Secretary Barry Schoch. But the turnpike speed limits in those areas could rise. One area where it won't rise will be near the New Jersey border, where an interchange linking the toll road and I-95 is being built.

On Aug. 11, 70 m.p.h. limits will go into effect, as part of a pilot program, on 88 miles of I-80, from Exit 101 in Clearfield County to Clinton County, and on 21 miles of I-380 from I-84 in Lackawanna County to Exit 3 (Pocono Pines-Mount Pocono) in Monroe County.

The secretary said the push to increase speed limits comes in response to how motorists drive: Many already drive above the current limit.

He said the new 70 m.p.h. zone on the turnpike will be monitored for at least six months to determine if there are any problems. If there are, the limit could be reduced.

There was no posted speed limit when the turnpike opened in 1940. In 1941, the limit was set at 70 m.p.h. In 1966, the limit was reduced to 65 m.p.h.

More than three dozen states have speed limits of 70 or higher, with some roads in Texas and Utah allowing motorists to travel as fast as 80 or 85.