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Pennsylvania Turnpike speed limit to hit 70 mph on 100-mile stretch

| Friday, July 18, 2014, 7:47 p.m.

Pennsylvania Turnpike officials said on Friday that the speed limit will increase to 70 mph on a portion of the turnpike and more increases could be announced next week.

The increase doesn't immediately affect Western Pennsylvania. The speed limit will increase between the Blue Mountain interchange near Shippensburg, exit 201, and the Morgantown Interchange south of Reading, exit 298, starting on Wednesday. The nearly 100-mile stretch encompasses about 50 miles east and west of Harrisburg.

“Our studies have shown that the design of our system in this area can safely accommodate the higher speed limit,” said Turnpike CEO Mark Compton.

State lawmakers gave transportation officials the ability to raise the speed limit from 65 mph as part of the transportation funding law passed last year, known as Act 89.

Turnpike spokesman Carl DeFebo said the speed limit on the entire turnpike won't rise but said details about other speed limit changes will be revealed next week.

“Between Pittsburgh and Harrisburg is not conducive to (an increase). I'm not saying it won't eventually happen. I'm just saying the timing isn't right,” DeFebo said.

A spokesman for Senate President Pro Tempore Joe Scarnati, R-Jefferson, welcomed the announcement. Scarnati has pushed for speed limit increases.

“We had some talks with turnpike officials over the summer. We're pleased to see the proposal moving forward and that we're joining other states that have increased their limit on stretches where it's safe and reasonable,” spokesman Casey Long said. “Sen. Scarnati is hopeful that this announcement will be followed by PennDOT on other stretches of road.”

PennDOT spokeswoman Erin Waters-Trasatt said officials are reviewing potential speed increases and she expects “to have details to share in the near future.”

Not everyone was enthusiastic about the move. Jim Runk, president of the Pennsylvania Motor Truck Association, said his organization didn't have a position on the matter but warned of safety concerns.

“I know a number of states already permit that kind of speed. The faster you go, the more problems that arise,” Runk said. “A lot of trucks have a governor between 65 and 68 mph. My concerns are that you have people not paying attention and running up against a truck.”

Bobby Kerlik is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. He can be reached at 412-320-7886 or bkerlik@tribweb.com.

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