Speed limit changes are a problem
Golesburg BM'stef-Maif, (|a|6 $buf9/. Ttesday f Jan. 3, 1974 3 llinoi8 Legislature Must Vote Reduced Speed Limit; How To Do It a Problem By ROBERT KIECKHEFER SPRINGFIELD (UPI) - The Illinois speed limit almost certainly is going to be lowered from a maximum of 70 miles an hour to 55 mph—perhaps by the end of next week. The change became an excellent bet Wednesday as President Nixon/signed new federal energy legislation. The federal law urges states to lower their speed limits to 55 mph and threatens to withhold millions of dollars in federal highway funds from states which do not comply. The reason for the speed lim it reduction is that most vehicles burn gasoline more efficiently at lower speeds. Forcing drivers to drive more slowly, the reasoning goes, therefore would result in less gasoline consumption per mile traveled. Legislature Must Act By Wednesday morning, Gov. Daniel Walker's aides were poring over statute books, seeking a loophole which might allow the governor to unilaterally reduce the speed limit. They failed to find such a provision, however, and the ball was passed over to the legislature, which, under current interpretations, will have to take the necessary action. The lawmakers seemed to have been caught by surprise. Leadership had planned to return to Springfield for only two days this winter—on Jan. 9 for Walker's "State of the State" message and early in March for the annual budget presentation. No business session was planned until after the March 19 primary election. Since the federal law requires action within 60 days, the leaders began casting about for a quick way of passing a speed limit reduction bill without cutting into the schedules of members who are running hard for re-election. The only specific speed limit reduction bill currently before the legislature is one introduced Nov. 14 by Rep. Daniel Pierce, D-Highland Park, which is currently languishing on the speaker's table. One Bill Alive That bill was authored by the House Energy Crisis Study Commission and would give the governor power to singlehanded- ly reduce the speed limit when he finds there is an energy crisis. Pierce, contacted at his Chicago law office, said he will ask leadership to move the bill to passage when the House and Senate reconvene Jan. 9. However, it would take at least four days to pass Pierce's bill because of constitutional strictures. And it would require five days to pass an entirely new bill. House Clerk Fred Selcke said faster action might be possible by amending another bill which is further along in the legls* lative process. If the right piece of legislation can be found td serve as a "vehicle," Selcke said, the change could be made and sent to Walker in as little as a single day. The state's top speed limit is now 70 mph on limited-access highways and 65 on other roads. Department of Transportation sources were unavailable for comment on how much it would cost to replace or alter speed limit signs or how long such a process would take. New Speed Signs May Require Month To Install By NORMA CUNNINGHAM (Staff Writer) State highway creWs may need more than a month to post new speed limit signs in western and central Illinois. Jack Harlan, Illinois Division of Highways District 4 engineer at Peoria, said today one estimate put the cost for the entire state at $100,000. But he predicted it would be higher. "IT'S GOING to cost $10,000 in materiails alone for the Peoria district," Harlan said. District 4 is responsible for 1,336 miles of state roads in Knox, Mercer, Henderson, Warren, McDonough, Fulton, Stark, Tazewell and Peoria counties and parts of Woodford and Marshall counties. The Peoria district has two crews whose basic job is installing and maintaining signs, and they will be assigned to making the change. Some other traffic crews will also be assigned to the changeover, Harlan said. "We're going to have to rob Peter to pay Paul," Harlan said, pointing out that traffic crews also perform such functions as snow removal. When the job is finished will depend on weather and other work that must be done. "You can't change the signs when it's five below zero," Harlan commented. REDUCING ILLINOIS' speed limit from a maximum of 70 miles an hour to 55 mph — perhaps by the end of next week — became an excellent bet Wednesday as President Nixon signed new federal energy legislation which urges states to lower their speed limits to 55 mph under the threat of withholding millions of dollars in federal aid if states don't comply. Harlan said he has been driving slower since Gov. Daniel Walker last fall ordered that state-owned vehicles not to be driven faster than 55 mph and later 50 mph. "You're not as tense when you go 50 rather than 70. You'll find your trips are more relaxed and enjoyable," he said. From a traffic engineer's standpoint, more oars can be moved past a given point at 55 mph than at 70 mph, Harlan said. Besides, cars get better mileage at the lower speed. Harlan said he gets 3-4 miles per gallon more with his 1970 car driving at the lower speed. KNOX COUNTY Highway Department crews don't face any additional work as a result of the impending change to tine lower speed limit. Jack Witt, county highway superintendent, explained today that there are no speed limit signs on county roads except Where the speed limit is already under 55 mph. "County highways, have the same speed limit as the state unless they were otherwise posted," Witt said. He pointed out that the road to Lake Bracken south of Galesburg is posted at 45 mph, and some other county roads are posted as low as 35 mph.