NY Sen. eyes higher speed limit on thruway, state highways

New York could join 41 other states by raising its speed limit to 70 mph on the Thruway and other state highways.

State Sen. Tom O’Mara introduced a bill that would allow the state Department of Transportation and Thruway Authority to increase the maximum speed limit from 65 to 70 mph.

The speed limit for most of the Thruway consisting of interstates 87 and 90 is 65 mph. Other state highways, including a portion of Route 5 near Syracuse, also have 65 mph speed limits. On state-owned roads, there are reduced speed limits in densely populated areas.

The 65 mph speed limit has been in effect since 1995 when then-Gov. George Pataki signed legislation increasing it from 55 mph. At that time, New York was the 44th state to raise its speed limit to 65 mph.

Nearly 30 years later, most states have adopted 70 mph speed limits for rural interstates, according to the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety. Forty-one states have set 70 mph or higher speed limits for at least portions of these highways.

The holdouts, like New York, are mostly in the Northeast. Four neighboring states — Connecticut, Massachusetts, New Jersey and Vermont — have 65 mph speed limits.

O’Mara, a Big Flats Republican, thinks it is time to raise the speed limit.

“New York has failed to keep up with the rest of the country by not adopting a more efficient speed limit,” he wrote in his justification for the bill. “This bill would correct this inefficacy by allowing for a 70 mph speed limit where appropriate.”

Over the years, there have been other attempts to increase the state’s speed limit on the Thruway and other highways. Bills have been introduced to raise the speed limit to 75 mph, but the state Legislature has not voted on those proposals.


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