Drivers with the need for more speed are in luck on the Pennsylvania Turnpike between Berks and Cumberland counties.
The turnpike commission unveiled roads signs Wednesday morning, officially increasing the speed limit from 65 mph to 70 mph for the first time in Pennsylvania.
The turnpike's new 70 mph signs were actually put in place Tuesday. Turnpike maintenance workers spent about six hours switching out 35 speed-limit signs along the 100-mile stretch of highway between the Morgantown interchange (exit 298), in Caernarvon Township, south of Reading, and the Blue Mountain interchange (exit 201), near Shippensburg.
"As we increase the speed limit on the Pennsylvania Turnpike, motorists need to increase their restraint behind the wheel accordingly," said Mark Compton, the turnpike's CEO . "Remember, even though we're increasing the speed limit, motorists still must obey the law and drive safety. After all, 70 mph is the maximum speed, not the mandatory speed."
While much of the 100-mile stretch will be posted at 70 mph, turnpike officials said there will be areas where drivers will see reduced speeds, specifically at curves posted at advisory speeds between 60-65 mph.
In addition, work zones in the 70 mph zone will be posted at 55 mph, meaning an end to 40 mph work-zone speeds in this section.
"With this increase, we remain committed to protecting the lives of the people traveling as well as the men and women who are working out on the roadways," said Lt. Edward Murphy of Pennsylvania State Police Troop T, the unit in charge of turnpike patrols. "To ensure motorists heed the 55 mph work-zone speed limit, state police will be conducting 'Orange-Squeeze' operations, where troopers run radar inside construction vehicles instead of patrol cars."
The standard speed limit for the rest of the 552-mile turnpike system is still 65 mph, except for places like curves and tunnels.
The Pennsylvania Department of Transportation also announced Wednesday that it will begin Aug. 11 piloting a 70-mph speed limit on two interstates:
- 88 miles of Interstate 80 between the DuBois interchange (exit 101) in Clearfield County and mile marker 189 in Clinton County; and
- 21 miles of Interstate 380 between Interstate 84 in Lackawanna County and the Pocono Pines/Mt. Pocono interchange (exit 3) in Monroe County.
"After thorough analysis and reviewing other states' practices, PennDOT is piloting this speed limit so we can use the data to determine where else the maximum speed could be increased," said Barry J. Schoch, the state's transportation secretary and turnpike commissioner. "Safety is our top priority in this process, and I urge drivers to obey the speed limit whether they’re in their neighborhood or on an interstate."
Highway sections that can safely accommodate the increased speed limit could start being signed in spring or summer next year, officials said.
The turnpike's 70 mph speed limit could also be implemented on remaining portions of the toll road system in 2015, Compton said.
"This initial 70 mph zone will be monitored for six to eight months to see how the higher speed limit works," Compton said. "If everything goes well, I'd expect the remainder of the turnpike will switch over to 70 mph speed where appropriate and safe next spring."
The higher speeds were authorized by last year's transportation funding law. About 35 other states already allow speeds of 70 mph or more.