Highway patrol to be out in force for 70-mph speed limit

‘We’re going to be very strict’; planes to watch I-75

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    Motorists drive on I-75 south of Perrysburg on Friday. Starting today, they’ll be able to drive 70 mph legally, but the Ohio Highway Patrol wants to keep them from going any faster than that.

  • Motorists drive on I-75 south of Perrysburg on Friday. Starting today, they’ll be able to drive 70 mph legally, but the Ohio Highway Patrol wants to keep them from going any faster than that.
    Motorists drive on I-75 south of Perrysburg on Friday. Starting today, they’ll be able to drive 70 mph legally, but the Ohio Highway Patrol wants to keep them from going any faster than that.

    Hammer down, Ohio drivers. Unless, of course, you already do.

    In that case, Ohio Highway Patrol Lt. Jerrod Savidge would prefer that you not drive any faster now that Ohio’s speed limit on rural Interstate System freeways today is 70 mph instead of 65.

    The commander of the patrol’s Bowling Green post said last week that he has directed his troopers to enforce the new limit strictly — no 5 or 10 mph grace — and planes will be up over I-75 in Wood County this week to help them track down speeders.

    “Seventy doesn’t mean 75. We’re going to be very strict,” Lieutenant Savidge said last week. “... As long as the weather cooperates, we will be flying I-75.”

    That could present a challenge for drivers such as Jim Herbolsheimer, a Cleveland resident who stopped for gas Friday in Lake Township during a trip home from Michigan and spoke happily about the higher limit.

    “I’m all in favor of it, since I’m usually going faster than the speed limit anyway,” he said.

    Mr. Herbolsheimer said he usually goes about 5 mph over, because police “usually give you 6 or 7.”

    While 5 extra miles per hour may not make much difference for commuting, he said, “when you’ve got a four-hour, five-hour trip, it adds up.”

    But his occasions to use highways with the new limit may be limited, because he mainly uses the Ohio Turnpike, which has had a 70-mph limit for 27 months, for his Michigan trips.

    “People usually go five miles over” the limit, agreed Lawrence Bradford of Fostoria, who said he normally sets his cruise control “about 2 to 3 over.”

    Mr. Bradford said he doesn’t think raising the limit is a good idea — “I think people drive fast enough now” — but he may still push the accelerator just a bit harder with the higher limit.

    “I guess I’m gonna have to or get swallowed up,” he said.

    Other drivers buying fuel Friday at the Pilot Travel Center in Lake Township were less impressed by the impending speed-limit hike — especially truckers.

    “I’m governed at 60, so it doesn’t affect me,” said Joe Krach, a truck driver from Pittsburgh, noting that many major trucking companies limit their rigs’ speeds with engine governors to conserve fuel.

    Marlene Mossburg of Bowling Green agreed, noting that her truck-driving job routinely takes her to Ontario, where provincial law requires trucks to be governed no higher than 105 kilometers per hour — a bit less than 65 mph.

    “A lot of truckers will like it, because they want to go faster, but I think 65’s my top,” Ms. Mossburg said.

    But in her personal car, she expects to take advantage of the higher speed limit on freeways such as I-75.

    “Oh, yeah, I’ll do 70 in my car,” Ms. Mossburg said, professing to stay within the speed limit even in her own vehicle because any tickets she might get could be charged against her commercial license.

    I-75 south of the I-475/​U.S. 23 junction in Perrysburg is the closest that Ohio’s new speed limit gets to Toledo, although in the future bits of a few other area freeways, such as U.S. 24 west of I-475 or U.S. 23 in Sylvania, could get the new limit too.

    While the state law signed in April and effective today applied the 70-mph limit only to mainline Interstate System roads — I-70, I-71, I-75, I-76, I-77, and I-90 — outside urban and suburban areas, an amendment included in the biennial budget bill Gov. John Kasich signed Sunday evening extends eligibility to noninterstate highways designed to Interstate System standards.

    Melissa Ayers, an Ohio Department of Transportation spokesman, said the department has 90 days to determine which noninterstate expressways will qualify for the higher speed limits. Closest to Toledo, U.S. 24 would appear to be a candidate for 70 between Napoleon and I-475/​U.S. 23, a stretch that has no intersections, and for a 65-mph limit west of there.

    Less certain is whether the higher limit will be applied to U.S. 23 north of the I-475 junction in Sylvania Township. U.S. 23 already has a 70-mph limit across the border in Michigan, as does I-75 in Monroe County.

    On all Ohio freeways with 70-mph limits, all vehicles are to be allowed to go 70 — there is no provision for a lower speed limit for large trucks or private buses.

    The amendment also allows a speed limit of up to 65 on other rural divided highways that have no traffic lights, and up to 60 for rural divided highways with traffic lights.

    “Rural” means outside an urbanized area as defined by federal law.

    On I-75, the existing 60-mph and 65-mph limits will be retained through metro Toledo, and 65 will remain in effect through Findlay and Lima.

    The higher speed limit does not apply to urban-beltway Interstates such as I-475 or I-280.

    ODOT officials said last week that many signs will be changed today, so the new limit may not have been posted everywhere at midnight.

    In ODOT’s northwestern District 2, I-75 in Wood County is the only affected freeway, and district officials say only 12 signs need to be patched, plus one new sign put up, to complete the transition.

    Statewide, ODOT will erect 56 new signs and patch 261 others with a “70” over “65,” at a total cost of $8,287.19. The new ones will include eight “Reduced Speed Ahead” signs warning motorists that the 70-mph zone they’re in is about to end.

    The speed-limit change takes effect just before the busy Independence Day holiday weekend, and Lieutenant Savidge said the strong trooper presence he plans along I-75 for today will continue right through the week. “You can tell who’s out there in the passing lane just blowing by everybody,” the post commander said. “That’s who we’re looking for.”

    Contact David Patch at: dpatch@theblade.com or 419-724-6094.