Pending Approval: Speed Limits May Be Raised

Mike Seals - July 27, 2020 11:38 am

Study indicates speed limits may slowly rev up on some rural turnpikes and interstates in Oklahoma, pending approvals

Maximum speed limits on sections of rural interstates and turnpikes are due for a tune-up following extensive studies by the Oklahoma Department of Transportation and the Oklahoma Turnpike Authority. Recommendations on the changes are now heading to the respective boards of each agency for consideration.

The recent passage of HB 1071 set the stage for statewide studies on potential maximum speed limit increases of 75 mph on rural interstates and 80 mph on rural turnpikes. Existing maximum speed limits in larger urban areas will not change but could be considered in the future. ODOT and OTA carefully evaluated several safety factors including roadway geometry, sight distance, collision history, traffic flows and existing speed patterns to determine eligible locations. Discussions with safety and law enforcement partners were also key to the decision making process and will be ongoing.

“We appreciate that our legislators recognized safety concerns needed to be forefront in this process,” Oklahoma Secretary of Transportation Tim Gatz said. “Any increase in speed limits on interstates or highways must be carefully considered to ensure safety, and it’s not just a one-size-fits-all approach. Rep. Daniel Pae’s thoughtfulness and diligence helped the agencies develop a comprehensive plan for a statewide implementation.”

As both ODOT and OTA are separate agencies, each of their respective transportation authority bodies will consider approval on the proposed locations. The OTA board hears recommendations at their regular meeting on July 28, and the Oklahoma Transportation Commission will consider ODOT’s proposed locations on August 3 at its regular meeting.

“I appreciate ODOT and OTA thoughtfully evaluating this issue and performing the engineering studies to make sure these changes are done safely, and the Oklahoma Highway Patrol’s commitment to ensuring the speed limits are properly enforced.”  Rep. Daniel Pae said. “I’m very pleased that HB 1071 got the discussion started on modernizing Oklahoma’s rural interstate and turnpike speed limits to bring them into consistency with our neighboring states and existing patterns.”

It’s important to note that following approvals, the old posted speed limits will remain in place until the signs are changed. The new signs will need to be manufactured and installed in the corridors, which could take several months or more to complete.

“The Oklahoma Highway Patrol and local law enforcement will strictly enforce speed limits to make sure everyone is being safe,” OHP Lieutenant Chris Arnall said. “Drivers must ensure they’re driving at a speed that is reasonable and proper for the conditions. The higher the speed violation, the lower our tolerance for those who break the speed limit.”

ODOT and OTA will closely monitor the changes in the corridors and if the new speed limits create an unsafe situation, then adjustments could be made for the safety of the traveling public. Again, while there are no changes for the larger urban areas of the state at this time, they could be considered in the future. Details on approved locations will be announced following the respective meetings for each agency.

 

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