Higher speed limits OK on certain sections of the interstate motorway network
AUGUSTA, Maine – Transportation Commissioner David Bernhardt announced Tuesday that he has approved increasing speed limits on parts of the state’s interstate highways, including Interstate 295, Interstate 95, Interstate 395 and Route 1, five miles per hour.
Motorists traveling on these roads on Tuesday may have already noticed that teams from the Department of Transport were posting signs reflecting the new speed limits. Bernhardt told a press conference in Augusta on Tuesday that he decided to increase speed limits after a study of accident statistics and the speeds that most travelers already drive.
âIt is much safer if the operating speed and the displayed speed are the same,â said Bernhardt.
As part of the changes, the speed limit on Interstate 295 from Tukey’s Bridge in Portland to Gardiner has been increased from 65 to 70 mph. The limit on the Scarborough Connector will increase from 55 to 60 mph and Interstate 195 in the Saco area will increase from 55 to 60 mph.
The top speed on a divided four-lane portion of Route 1 between Brunswick and Bath has also been increased, from 55 to 60 mph.
The limit is increased to 70 mph from mile 114 in north Augusta to mile 126 in Oakland, as well as from mile 134 north of Oakland to mile 181 in Bangor.
In the Bangor area, the 181-188 mile limit will increase by five mph – a maximum of 70 mph in some locations – and on Interstate 395 in the Bangor area, the limit will increase from 55 to 60 mph between I- 95 and Exit 4 and at 65 mph between Exit 4 and Route 1A.
The portion of I-295 between the Fore River in Portland and Tukey’s Bridge, which is at 50 mph, will remain unchanged. The portion of Interstate 95 from the Maine Turnpike to Mile 114 in the Augusta area will also remain at 65 mph. Also unchanged from the current 65 mph limit, there will be approximately 8 miles of Interstate 95 in the Waterville area.
The legal speed on Interstate 95 from Old Town to Houlton, where the limit was raised to 75 mph in 2011, will remain unchanged.
The ability to increase the speed limit on the interstate highway system was made possible in May 2013 with the enactment of LD 654, An Act to Raise the Speed ââLimit on Interstate 295. The bill, sponsored by Representative Justin Chenette, D-Saco, originally called for increasing the speed limit on Interstate 295, which connects Scarborough and West Gardiner, to 75 mph. It was amended to give the Commissioner of Transportation the power to increase the limit across the entire interstate network.
The Department of Transportation testified neither for nor against the bill, although the department’s legislative liaison suggested in committee testimony that if lawmakers wanted to pass Chenette’s bill, it should give the commissioner l authority over the entire Maine interstate system, not just parts of it.
With this change, the bill received unanimous approval from the Legislature and came into force on May 20 without the signature of Governor Paul LePage.
The speed limit on Interstate 95 in Maine was 70 mph between 1959 and 1973, and the limit on other highways was reduced to 55 mph by Congress as an energy saving measure. Congress increased the limit on freeways to 65 mph in 1987 and in 1995 gave states the power to set their own speed limits.
The AAA of northern New England opposed the bill, arguing that Interstate 295 is already congested and is a safety concern.
George Colby, a commercial truck driver from New Gloucester, urged the Legislative Transportation Committee not to increase the speed limit on I-295 between Scarborough and Topsham because he said there was too many exits and too much congestion in this region.
âWhen I first came across this bill and read it, I was horrified,â Colby said. “I couldn’t believe anyone would actually try to introduce this bill.”
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