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Speed limit to rise to 70 mph on Ohio Turnpike

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FILE - In this Nov. 15, 2007 file photo, westbound traffic on the Ohio Turnpike passes through Olmsted Falls, Ohio. The speed limit on the Ohio Turnpike will rise next year, from 65 mph to 70 mph. Spokeswoman Lauren Hakos says members of the Turnpike Comm

FILE - In this Nov. 15, 2007 file photo, westbound traffic on the Ohio Turnpike passes through Olmsted Falls, Ohio. The speed limit on the Ohio Turnpike will rise next year, from 65 mph to 70 mph. Spokeswoman Lauren Hakos says members of the Turnpike Commission voted 4-1 on Monday, Dec. 20, 2010, to approve the increase, which applies to all vehicles. It takes effect April 1 along the 241-mile turnpike.

Mark Duncan, File, Associated Press

COLUMBUS, Ohio — To get more trucks off of secondary roads and onto the Ohio Turnpike, a higher speed limit was approved Monday that will legalize travel at 70 mph along the 241-mile toll road for the first time in more than 35 years.

The Turnpike Commission voted 4-1 to raise the speed limit for all vehicles from the current 65 mph, beginning April 1. The move was primarily made in the interest of safety, said George Distel, the turnpike's executive director.

"We are trying to encourage heavy commercial vehicles off of parallel routes and onto the turnpike, which is designed to accommodate those vehicles much better than those two-lane highways," he said.

Communities have been complaining to the commission about the safety of big rigs traveling on local streets, Distel said. He did not know if the tolls or other reasons were causing some truckers to avoid the turnpike.

The turnpike had a 70 mph speed limit for passenger cars from the mid-1960s until 1974, when speed limits nationwide were cut to 55 mph to conserve fuel, Distel said.

The new change in the legal speed will be the turnpike's first since September 2004, when the limit for commercial vehicles was raised to 65 mph. Ohio will be joining 26 states that currently have a speed limit of 70 mph for both commercial vehicles and passenger cars, officials said.

The turnpike commission did not do any polling to determine if more truckers will indeed use the toll road once the speed limit is higher, Distel said. The Ohio Trucking Association submitted a letter to the turnpike commission Monday opposing the speed limit increase and saying its members would rather see lower tolls.

Distel defended the current toll rates, which range up to $75 for a large rig traveling the entire length of the turnpike, according to the turnpike's website.

"If you check our tolls against other toll roads in the nation, we are among the lowest," he said.

A message seeking comment was left for the trucking association Monday.

Auto club AAA is hoping the commission's decision won't prove to be an incorrect one, said Brian Newbacher, a regional spokesman for the group.

"The greater the speed, the longer the distance it takes to stop a vehicle, be it a truck or a passenger vehicle," he noted.