SPRINGFIELD -- The speed limit on interstate highways in most of downstate Illinois would increase from 65 to 70 mph under legislation overwhelmingly approved by the House Wednesday.
The House vote was 85-30, with nearly all Downstate state representatives voting in favor. Only Reps. Dan Brady, R-Bloomington, and Don Moffitt, R-Galesburg, voted no.
A month ago, the Senate approved the measure, 41-6.
The large majorities in both chambers suggest that a potential gubernatorial veto of SB 2356 would be easily overridden.
Both the Illinois State Police and Gov. Pat Quinn's Transportation Department director have spoken out against the higher speed limit. Quinn spokesman Dave Blanchette said only that the governor "will carefully review the bill when it reaches his desk and then make a decision."
The speed limit on all interstate highways outside of Cook, DuPage, Lake, Kane, McHenry and Will counties would increase to 70 mph under the bill.
Thirty-four other states already have speed limits of 70 mph or greater.
"From the top to the bottom of our state is 430 miles," said Rep. Deborah Mell, D-Chicago. "If we're driving 65 it take 6.6 hours to get there. If we're driving 70 it takes 6.1 It's not a huge saving and I think we've got to think if it's worth it balancing safety versus getting there just a few minutes faster."
"Is it really that important? We believe in saving human lives," said Rep. Monique Davis, D-Chicago.
But the bill's sponsor, Rep. Jerry Costello, D-Red Bud, said studies in Colorado and California "have shown that fatalities and injury crashes are decreased in those states when the speed limit was raised from 65 to 70 because people used the interstates instead of two-lane highways. Those states have become safer with the raise in the speed limit."
Costello acknowledged that insurance companies were opposed to the speed limit increase but added, "insurance companies make money off of speeding tickets."
He said Illinois adopted the 65 mph speed limit in 1987.
"(19)89 was when air bags were mandated. Engineering, safety, cars nowadays are much, much safer than they were in 1987. They're designed to go faster." he argued.