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Spirited debate on proposal to raise speed limit on Pa. highways

By Catherine Hawley, Reporter, news@wfmz.com
Published On: Dec 24 2013 10:01:55 AM CST
Updated On: Oct 16 2013 12:15:28 PM CDT

Pennsylvania could become the 35th state to increase its speed limit to at least 70 miles per hour

HARRISBURG, Pa. -

Pennsylvania could become the 35th state to up the legal speed limit to 70 mph. 

A leading state senator announced he plans to introduce legislation to raise the speed limit on interstates and the Pennsylvania turnpike.

Raising the speed limit here in the Commonwealth is not a new idea. 

A bill seeking to do just that got through a state House committee last year.  But this time, it's the state's top member of Senate, Joe Scarnati, who's proposing the plan.

It's an idea that's got engines revving on both sides.  Should drivers on Pennsylvania interstates be legally allowed to go 70 mph?

"I think that would be stupid," Brandon Harris said.

"In the right areas I think it's appropriate," Matthew Novacich said.

That's the side Senate President Pro Tempore Joe Scarnati is on. 

He recently announced plans to introduce legislation increasing Pennsylvania's maximum allowable speed limit from 65 to 70 mph. 

Scarnati said the higher speed would make traffic move better and make the delivery of goods more efficient.

 But some local drivers said they're not convinced raising the speed limit 5 miles per hour would make a big difference.

"I think they're pretty much doing those speed limits now," Matthew Novacich said.  "So I don't think it will make much of a difference to them."

Since the federal government repealed the nationwide 55 mph speed limit in 1995, 34 states have set speed limits of at least 70 mph, with 16 states capping speeds at 75 mph.

"I think by upping the speed limit you're really just upping the flow of traffic," said Tracey Novacich.

Other motorists think people might abuse a higher limit.

"There's enough people dying from car accidents every year," said Brandon Harris.  "I don't think they should do it."

Critics say research is clear that driving faster leads to more crashes. 

Folks against the idea also wonder how our government could fund replacing hundreds of speed limit signs across the state.

 "It's going to cost a lot of money to do that," Tracey Novacich said.  "I know that for a fact."

Under the proposal, speeds would not be increased without justification by highway department studies.