Higher highway speeds seen creating few problems

Interstate system was designed for 70 mph


Two sheriffs and an Ohio Highway Patrol commander say raising the speed limit five miles per hour on Ohio rural interstate highways — to 70 mph — won’t cause new problems with enforcement.

Hancock County Sheriff Michael Heldman said the higher limit is something the agency has seen before.

“I recall when it was 70 before and it wasn’t a real problem,” he said. “Most people are driving that speed anyway.”

While he said he has mixed emotions about the change, he still hoped that motorists would think twice about increasing their speed, because drivers typically travel faster than the posted limit anyway.

“I think it will be OK. We’ve been there before,” Sheriff Heldman said.

Mark Wasylyshyn, Wood County sheriff, agreed that the increase shouldn’t create major issues.

“The interstate system was designed to have speeds every bit of 70 miles per hour,” he said. “I think there’s no reason not to increase.”

Sheriff Wasylyshyn cited a lack of incidents on the Ohio Turnpike, which allows drivers to go to a 70 mph limit, behind his reasoning. In April, 2011, the speed limit on the Ohio Turnpike rose to 70 miles per hour.

“I don’t foresee any issues,” he said.

The $7.6 billion transportation and public safety budget, which must be approved by Gov. John Kasich, sets 65 mph on urban outer beltways and other congested stretches, and gives the state the option of setting the limit at 60 mph on certain two-lane state highways outside urban areas.

Decisions on precisely which highways are in line to be affected would be left to the Ohio Department of Transportation, but the only likely impact in the area would be on I-75 south of Perrysburg.

Lt. Anne Ralston, spokesman for the Ohio Highway Patrol, said the change won’t be more difficult to enforce because officers are accustomed to monitoring different limits on roadways.

“We will enforce the laws that are decided on by the legislative process,” Lieutenant Ralston said.

She said safety is always a major concern for the highway patrol, however.

“We’re always going to have a concern for safety, regardless of what the speed limit is,” she said.

Contact Kelly McLendon at: kmclendon@theblade.com or 419-724-6522