Essential Pittsburgh
6:56 pm
Tue July 29, 2014

Pennsylvania Cautiously Boosts Speed Limit

A 1940 speed limit sign for the Pennsylvania turnpike, which is now as low as 55 mph in some areas.
A 1940 speed limit sign for the Pennsylvania turnpike, which is now as low as 55 mph in some areas.
Credit Ann Rosener / Library of Congress/Wikipedia

The Pennsylvania Turnpike, like a young driver, has a history of suddenly speeding up and slowing down.

In the 1940’s, the speed limit was 70, which was dropped to 65 during World War II. It shot back up to 70 in the 1950’s but the gas shortage of the late 1970’s led the speed limit to be cut all the way down to 55 mph.

Now, the speed limit is 65 and will soon be boosted to 70 on interstate roads, following a trial period on carefully chosen roads, including a section of the turnpike between Blue Mountain exit 201, and Morgantown exit 298.

With a speed limit of 70 mph already in Ohio and West Virginia, is it about time for PA to match up with neighboring states? Renee Vid Colborn, Manager of Media and Public Relations at the PA Turnpike Commission and State Senator Jay Costa addressed the pros and cons of an increased speed limit for area highways.

"We want to see how this higher speed limit works,” said Renee Vid Colborn, explaining why the state opted to start with boosting the speed limit on a short stretch of highway. “Obviously we want to look at the traffic situation, how it’s moving, whether it’s moving more effectively, whether there’s more crashes or not, we’re looking at all those factors.”

State Senator Jay Costa explained that speed limits in Pennsylvania should not be compared to other states.

“We can’t necessarily always compare ourselves to Ohio or North Dakota or other states. They're a lot different than Pennsylvania. The difference is… it seems to me that the roadways are relatively flat and straight in Ohio, and it allows for more of an opportunity for greater portions of those roads at 70 mph. But when you look at Pennsylvania, in the western part of the state, whether it be at the turnpike or whether it be at 376, at least in this region, it’s a hilly road, it’s a winding, bendy road, it’s just not necessarily safe for a higher rate of speed at this time. I think it’s appropriate for folks to look at a couple of spots, check where it’s appropriate, particularly given safety reasons.”