Higher speed limits now in Kasich’s hands

The Ohio House of Representatives on Thursday voted 63-28 to approve a final transportation budget that includes increasing speed limits on interstates outside of urban areas to 70 miles per hour.

Motorists would also be allowed to drive 65 mph on urban outer belts, 60 on all two-lane state highways outside city limits and 55 on interstates in congested areas.

The two-year, $3.87 billion budget now goes to Kasich for his approval.

Kasich could still veto the new speed limits, along with any other individual line items of the bill as he sees fit. He has 10 days to consider any vetoes.

While Kasich issued a statement praising the passage of the transportation bill, he did not weigh in on the new speed limits. A spokesman for the governor said he hasn’t made any decisions.

“We’re going to take the time to review the legal and policy implications of what was passed and don’t have anything to announce at this time,” spokesman Rob Nichols said in an email.

Barring a veto from Kasich, the new speed limits would take effect on July 1, Ohio Department of Transportation spokesman Steve Faulkner said.

The Ohio State Highway Patrol has no official position on the increase in speed limits on rural highways, said spokeswoman Lt. Anne Ralston.

“We’re pleased the 70 miles an hour is going to be relegated to the rural interstates, and not the more urban and congested areas,” where the majority of fatal crashes on highways take place, Ralston said.

Overall, the transportation budget provides more than $2.5 billion each year for road construction and maintenance projects.

Among the other provisions of the transportation budget: motorists who are late registering their vehicles will face a $10 fine after a 30-day grace period, compared to the existing $20 fine after a seven-day grace period; businesses will be allowed to apply for specialty license plates with their company logos on them; and the state is authorized to issue $1.5 billion in bonds backed by future Ohio Turnpike tolls, but 90 percent of the bond revenues will have to be spent within 75 miles of the turnpike.

The turnpike bonds plan is Kasich’s; the governor said it would create 65,000 jobs in the state.

Despite the public interest in the subject, as well as concerns from environmental groups and insurance companies, legislators did not discuss the new speed limits before voting on the transportation budget.

Most of the voiced opposition came from Democrats, who said borrowing money based on turnpike tolls over-leveraged the state’s borrowing capacity and didn’t include enough funding for public transportation.

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