Speed limits will increase on some U.S. routes and state roads next week, including three in Clark County, the Ohio Department of Transportation announced Friday.
More than 600 miles of roads in the state will have increased speed limits starting next month. The increases were included as part of legislation passed by the state earlier this year, which goes into effect on Sunday.
Local leaders believe the roads can accommodate the speeds, but they do worry about transitions into lower speed areas.
In Clark County, two roads will increase from 65 to 70 miles per hour, including:
• Ohio 4 between Interstate 70 and U.S. 40
• U.S. 68 from just north of the Clark/Champaign county line to just south of I-70.
Also, U.S. 40 east of Springfield will move from 55 mph to 60 mph.
The legislation increases speeds on 398 miles of rural freeways to 70 miles per hours, 194 miles of rural divided highways to 60 and 15 miles of rural expressways with traffic signals to 65 miles per hour.
The legislation also creates speed limit uniformity for cars and trucks, allowing each vehicle to drive the same speed on Ohio roadways. Speed limits on some roads will stay the same for cars but increase for trucks.
ODOT will produce 1,100 new highway signs statewide at a cost of approximately $114,000. Most of the signs will be new, while some will be overlays to cover a portion of existing signs. The signs are expected to be installed by Oct. 4.
Clark County Sheriff Gene Kelly said he doesn’t believe the increased speeds will lead to decreased safety on the highways. The roads were “built” for those types of speed, Kelly said.
“These are probably some of the best roads in the state of Ohio,” Kelly said. “We’re not having crashes now with people going 65.”
Scott Schmid, transportation director for the Clark County Springfield Transportation Coordinating Committee, said he’s concerned about some of the transitions from state to local roads. For example, at U.S. 68 southbound, the speed limit will drop from 70 miles per hour to 55 near Fairfield Road.
“I don’t know how they’re going to handle that,” Schmid said.
Monica Dunham told the News-Sun’s Facebook page there is no need to increase the speed limits on rural roads and that it will only lead to more accidents.
On Route 4, the speed will transition from 70 mph to 50 mph coming into Springfield. The nearby intersection at U.S. 40 and Upper Valley Pike is also the top High Hazard Intersection, according to a recent report released by the TCC.
On the east side, U.S. 40 from Plattsburg Road to Ohio 54 ranked No. 6 on the TCC’s High Hazard Rural Roadway segment. The road currently transitions from 55 mph to 45 mph, which now will increase from 60 mph to 45 mph.
“My biggest concern is the way we transition into lower speed limits,” Schmid said. “It’s one thing to drop a speed limit 10 miles per hour, but it’s another to drop it 15.”
Other area roads with speed increases include:
• In Greene County, U.S. 35 east of Xenia will now be 70 mph.
• U.S. 42 from Waynesville to Xenia will be 50 mph.
• Parts of U.S. 42 and Ohio 73 in Warren County will now be 55 mph.
• In Logan County, U.S. 33 between Huntsville and Bellefontaine will be 65 mph, then 70 mph through and south of Bellefontaine.
On July 1, speed limits on 570 miles of rural Ohio interstates increased from 65 to 70 miles per hour for both cars and trucks, including throughout I-70 in Clark County.
Recent rollover crashes near the ramps caused concern for Kelly. The sheriff said drivers need to slow down when entering and exiting the highways.
Kelly said he’s more concerned with drivers speeding on rural county roads, many of which have a speed limit of 55 miles per hour like Old Columbus, where a fatal accident killed three people earlier this month.
“These four-lane divided highways are in excellent condition,” Kelly said. “Especially when the streets are dry, I don’t think we’d have any problem.”
The Springfield News-Sun is committed to covering traffic safety issues in Clark and Champaign counties, including recent stories on high hazard areas and bridge repairs.