Ohio Senate votes to raise speed limit on some highways

The speed limit on some Ohio highways could go up to 70 miles per hour under a bill that passed the Ohio Senate on Wednesday.

The higher speed limit would apply to interstate freeways outside of urban areas — such as parts of Interstates 75, 70 and 71. The limit on outerbelts in urban areas such as I-675 around Dayton and I-275 around Cincinnati would be 65 mph. The speed limit would be 55 mph on interstates deemed congested by the Ohio Department of Transportation.

The transportation budget bill passed 27-6.

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The House rejected the Senate amendments to the bill, which means the two chambers will try to iron out their differences in a conference committee.

Thirty-four states have raised limits to 70 mph or higher on some roads since 1995. The surrounding states of Michigan, Indiana, West Virginia and Kentucky all have 70 mph limits. In 1996, Ohio bumped the freeway limit from 55 to 65 mph and in 2010, the Ohio Turnpike Commission approved a 70 mph limit.

While lawmakers have pushed for the higher limits for years, the idea faces opposition from environmental groups that say higher speeds reduce fuel efficiency and insurance groups that say it’ll increase danger on the roadways.

The bill includes Gov. John Kasich’s plan to raise $1.5 billion in cash by bonding against future turnpike revenues and then using the money for road projects. Senators, though, added a provision requiring that 90 percent of the bond money be spent on projects within 75 miles of the turnpike.

Kasich did not comment on the higher speed limit or other specific changes lawmakers made but he said, “We have a House bill. We’ll have a Senate bill. But the great thing is we’ll have a change on the turnpike we’ll have more infrastructure in Ohio and there will be jobs created because of it.”

Staff Writer Andrew J. Tobias contributed to this report.

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