SPRINGFIELD-The maximum speed limit would jump to 70 mph on interstate highways in most of Illinois under a measure passed Wednesday by the General Assembly over concerns it would put more drivers at risk.
The legislation, sponsored by Rep. Jerry Costello (D-Smithton), passed the House by an 85-30 margin after passing the Senate last month. The bill now awaits the approval of Gov. Pat Quinn, who Costello said is against the idea.
"I believe it is a business-friendly bill," Costello said. "I believe this is safer legislation than the 65-mph speed limit that we currently have."
The legislation - which Costello said would bring Illinois up to par with 34 other states that have limits of at least 70 mph - would apply to interstate highways outside of urban districts.
It also allow for lower maximum speed limits in some counties - Cook, DuPage, Kane, Lake, Madison, McHenry, St. Clair and Will counties.
Costello, a former police officer, cited studies saying people drive between 72 to 74 mph on average when the speed limit is 65 or 70 mph and that "the disparity in speeds is what many times causes those accidents."
But opponents, including some with commercial driver's licenses, lined up against the bill and noted its opposition from several state agencies including the Illinois Department of Transportation, Illinois State Police and Illinois Insurance Association.
"You run the speed limit up to 70 with an 80,000-pound truck, guys are going to push it further," argued Rep. Jim Sacia (R-Pecatonica), who said he drives a commercial truck during the summer and on weekends.
Opposition came from both sides of the aisle, with House Democratic leader Rep. Barbara Flynn Currie (D-Chicago) weighing in.
"I don't know if this is a business-friendly bill, but I know that it sure is not a people-friendly bill," Currie said. "All the studies show that when you increase road speeds you increase road crashes...You also kill a lot more people."
But Costello countered that vehicles doing 60 mph in a 70-mph speed zone have a "greater propensity for accidents than someone doing 80."
"Slower vehicles are more likely to cause accidents," he said.