Accidents, exits played key role in decision to lower I-74 speed limit

Accidents, exits played key role in decision to lower I-74 speed limit

CHAMPAIGN -- If you're wondering why you'll have to take your foot off the gas a bit when heading through Champaign-Urbana on Interstate 74, the answer lies in too many accidents and lots of places to enter and exit the highway in a short span of road.

The Illinois Department of Transportation's decision to lower the limit to 60 mph starting Friday came down to how fast people have been driving, the accident rate and the number of interchanges, officials said.

David Speicher, operations engineer with IDOT District 5, said drivers on I-74 through C-U were actually going a bit below the speed limit, averaging just a hair over 68 mph. However, three high-accident locations in this area, combined with the number of places drivers enter and exit, justify a lower speed limit, he said.

The three locations with higher accident rates than the state average include just west of Cunningham Avenue, just west of Lincoln Avenue and just east of I-57, he said.

The lower speed limit on I-74 wasn't extended to the University Avenue exit because that interchange area has different characteristics from the others through C-U, Speicher said.

The change comes about five years after the state raised its interstate speed limit from 65 to 70 mph, with the exception of those running through a handful of counties that opted out of the increase.

IDOT and state police opposed the bill that brought the higher speed limit.

"Speed is a significant factor in the severity of every crash, and the interaction between higher-speed through-traffic on an interstate with lower-speed traffic entering or exiting at interchanges was shown to be an issue," IDOT said in Tuesday's announcement. "Reducing the speed limit of through-traffic to closer to that of traffic from interchanges gives drivers more time to react, thereby reducing the severity of a crash or avoiding one altogether."

IDOT also recently studied the 70-mph speed limit on I-57 from Olympian Drive to Curtis Road in C-U and concluded the current limit is correct for that area.

In addition to the lower speed-limit postings on the way for I-74, the state will also be adding signs approaching C-U warning about a reduced speed zone ahead, Speicher said.

Carle Arrow Ambulance is hopeful the lower speed limit will help lower the number of accidents.

"Carle Arrow Ambulance appreciates IDOT's close examination of safety on Interstate 74 through Champaign-Urbana," said Larry Sapp, the ambulance service's director. "We do hope to see fewer and less-serious accidents because of the speed-limit change."