OKLAHOMA CITY — Drivers on some rural roadways in Oklahoma may see increased speed limits in the near future. Following extensive studies by the Oklahoma Department of Transportation (ODOT) and the Oklahoma Turnpike Authority (OTA), the state has determined that speed limits on portions of rural interstates and turnpikes are due for a tune-up. Recommendations on the changes are now heading to the respective boards of each agency for consideration.
The recent passage of Oklahoma HB 1071 set the stage for statewide studies on potential maximum speed limit increases of 75 mph on rural interstates and 80 mph on rural turnpikes. Existing maximum speed limits in larger urban areas will not change; but limit increases could be considered in the future.
According to a July 27 statement, ODOT and OTA carefully evaluated several safety factors including roadway geometry, sight distance, collision history, traffic flows and existing speed patterns to determine locations eligible for raised speed limits. “Discussions with safety and law enforcement partners were also key to the decision-making process and will be ongoing,” the statement notes.
“We appreciate that our legislators recognized safety concerns needed to be forefront in this process,” said Tim Gatz, Oklahoma Secretary of Transportation. “Any increase in speed limits on interstates or highways must be carefully considered to ensure safety, and it’s not just a one-size-fits-all approach. Rep. Daniel Pae’s thoughtfulness and diligence helped the agencies develop a comprehensive plan for a statewide implementation.”
Because both ODOT and OTA are separate agencies, each of their respective transportation authority bodies will consider approval on the proposed locations. The OTA board heard recommendations at a July 28 meeting, and the Oklahoma Transportation Commission will consider ODOT’s proposed locations on August 3 at its regular meeting.
“I appreciate ODOT and OTA thoughtfully evaluating this issue and performing the engineering studies to make sure these changes are done safely, and the Oklahoma Highway Patrol’s commitment to ensuring the speed limits are properly enforced,” said Pae (R-District 62). “I’m very pleased that HB 1071 got the discussion started on modernizing Oklahoma’s rural interstate and turnpike speed limits to bring them into consistency with our neighboring states and existing patterns.”
ODOT and OTA says drivers should be aware that, following approvals, the old posted speed limits will remain in place until the signs are changed. The new signs will need to be manufactured and installed in the corridors, which could take several months or more to complete.
“The Oklahoma Highway Patrol (OHP) and local law enforcement will strictly enforce speed limits to make sure everyone is being safe,” said OHP Lieutenant Chris Arnall. “Drivers must ensure they’re driving at a speed that is reasonable and proper for the conditions. The higher the speed violation, the lower our tolerance for those who break the speed limit.”
The July 27 statement notes that ODOT and OTA will closely monitor the changes in the corridors and that if the new speed limits create an unsafe situation, adjustments could be made for the safety of the traveling public. Details on approved locations will be announced following the respective meetings for each agency.