By Maggie Thurber | For Ohio Watchdog
The Senate added language in House Bill 53 to increase the speed limit on rural freeways and the Ohio Turnpike from 70 mph to 75 mph. The panel also granted the Ohio Turnpike and Infrastructure Commission the flexibility to set a lower limit if it was determined 75 mph was unsafe at specific locations.
The 70 mph speed limit was established in July 2013.
During Senate committee hearings, Sen. Gayle Manning, R-North Ridgeville, said having a single speed limit for all vehicles was safer than having one limit for cars and a lower one for trucks.
“What we’re finding is that accidents have gone down over the past year and a half since we put that into effect,” she said.
However, according to data from the Ohio State Patrol, there was an increase in accidents.
Sgt. Vincent Shirey said the Patrol looked at data for an 18-month cycle prior to the speed limit increase to 70 mph and then at data for the 18 months afterward for roadway segments where the increase was put into effect.
There were “267 (17 percent) additional injury crashes and 842 (12 percent) additional property damage crashes,” he wrote in an email.
The House did not concur with all the changes the Senate made to the $7 billion, two-year spending bill, which sent the measure to a conference committee to work out the differences.
On Tuesday, the increase to 75 mph was removed from the bill as part of the negotiations.
The conference committee also removed a requirement that motorists stay out of the far left lane on three-lane highways except to pass or exit, but did keep a requirement that the Ohio Department of Transportation erect signs that say “keep right except to pass.”
The bill is scheduled for a floor vote in the Senate on Wednesday and in the House on Thursday.
The Transportation Bill contains no general fund revenue. It receives revenue from various fuel taxes and fees, so it is handled separately from state’s main operating budget bill.