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Published: 9/28/2013 - Updated: 6 months ago

Speed limits rising to 70 mph for some state roads Sunday

BY JIM PROVANCE
BLADE COLUMBUS BUREAU CHIEF

COLUMBUS — Beginning Sunday, motorists may legally drive 70 mph on the new U.S. 24 from Waterville to just west of Napoleon under an overhaul of state highway speed limits.

That and a stretch of State Rt. 2 east of Bay View to Amherst in Lorain County are the only non-Interstate highways in northwest Ohio that will join I-75 and the Ohio Turnpike with a 70-mph speed limit.

The new speed limits apply to both cars and trucks, so in some cases the limits will remain the same for cars but increase for trucks. An example of this is State Rt. 2 east of Port Clinton to east of Bay View where speeds for all traffic will now be 65 mph.

The Ohio Department of Transportation also announced Friday that State Rt. 25 south of Levis Commons to Cygnet will go to 60 mph except for stretches through Bowling Green and Portage. The U.S. 6 bypass of Bowling Green will go to 65 mph.

In all, the limits on 607 miles of roadway statewide have been changed.

The General Assembly, after initially calling for the speed limit on rural Interstates to go from 65 mph to 70 mph, later ordered ODOT to look at so-called Interstate look-alikes — four-lane divided highways that are not part of the federal Interstate system and other roads to see where limits should be increased.

“Raising speed limits is not something the state takes likely,” ODOT Director Jerry Wray said. “We put much time and consideration into identifying roadways where speed limits could increase while maintaining a safe commute for Ohio motorists.”

About 194 miles of rural divided highways will go to 60 mph statewide, 15 miles of rural expressways without traffic control signals will go to 65 mph, and 398 miles of rural freeways will go to 70 mph.

Lucas County Sheriff John Tharp, who shares speed enforcement on U.S. 24 with the state highway patrol, said he’s not concerned about the speed limit increase.

“I’m more concerned with people using cell phones and texting,” Sheriff Tharp said. “I don’t think [the speed change] will make a significant difference in terms of accidents as long as people are focused on properly handling their vehicles and being aware of driving conditions and weather.

“Just because there’s a [posted] speed limit doesn’t mean you should go through a curve at 50 mph when it’s just a sheet of ice. You need to be aware of driving conditions and surroundings.”

Henry County Sheriff Michael Bodenbender also had no problems with the change, although he expressed some concern with a small portion of U.S. 6, the Napoleon Bypass, that splits off of U.S. 24 that will also go to 70 mph.

“I’m concerned that drivers could get confused,” he said.

But otherwise, he sees little difference between U.S. 24 and I-75.

“There are more curves on [U.S.] 24, which is the only issue,” he said. “It’s not as straight as [I-]75.”

But he noted that drivers traveled 70 mph on the old U.S. 24 before improvements were made.

“Five mph is not a big deal,” Mr. Bodenbender said. “It’s 70. Let’s keep it at that and not drive 75 to 80.”

Among the other changes, State Rt. 420 connecting I-280 with U.S. 20 will go from 55 to 60 mph, as will U.S. 20 from that point east to Fremont, with the exception of some congested areas such as Woodville and Hessville. It will pick up to 65 mph around Fremont, then drop back to 60 again on the way to Norwalk, slowing again in congested areas such as Clyde, Bellevue, and Monroeville.

With the recent changes, Toledoans who regularly travel to Columbus will be able to drive some of the stretch faster.

Just south of Toledo on I-75, the speed limit this summer became 70 mph except for urban areas. With the changes on Friday, the speed limit southeast of Findlay on State Rt. 15 jumped to 65 from 60 mph. It also becomes 60 mph on U.S. 23 north of Delaware. After Delaware, though, the speed limit fluctuates between 45 to 55 mph.

Contact Jim Provance at: jprovance@theblade.com or 614-221-0496.



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