Illinois House backs governor on truck speed

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The Illinois House on Wednesday, Oct. 10, failed to override Gov. Rod Blagojevich’s veto of a measure that would to let truckers drive faster on rural highways and interstates, the Associated Press reported. The House’s 57-53 vote in favor of overturning the governor’s veto was far short of the 71 votes needed to pass the measure, which would have raised the speed limit for trucks from 55 to 65 mph.

The vote marks the fourth time in recent years the higher truck speed limit has moved forward in the legislature but fallen short of becoming law. Supporters of the speed limit increase told the AP the governor’s strong lobbying push helped block the change.

“They cranked up the opposition,” said Rep. Bob Flider, the Mount Zion Democrat who sponsored the measure. “They cranked up the grass-roots effort against it. They were effective in peeling votes off.” Flider — who told the AP he expected the issue was dead for this year but could reappear next year — said that Blagojevich and his state agency officials had worked lawmakers hard for their support and suggested some had been offered enticements for upholding the veto.

Earlier Wednesday, Oct. 10, Blagojevich stood under an interstate overpass in Chicago to urge lawmakers to uphold his veto, saying that lawmakers who supported the change would be “voting to kill people.” He later thanked the House for backing his stance, saying they “voted to save lives.”

Blagojevich spokeswoman Rebecca Rausch told the AP that the governor had made personal phone calls to legislators on the issue but said he did not offer construction projects or other incentives in return. “He feels very strongly about this and was very pleased with the results,” Rausch told the AP.

Supporters of the higher speed limit in downstate and rural parts of the state say a “uniform” speed limit promotes safety by ensuring cars and trucks travel at the same speed. It also promotes economic health, as truckers are disadvantaged here because they must drive slower than in surrounding states, they argue.

Opponents say letting trucks go faster is inherently unsafe for much smaller cars traveling the same roads, even if trucks could only go faster on rural roadways. They estimate more than 100 more people a year would be killed in Illinois if trucks could go 65 mph. “It really puts all of us in jeopardy,” Rep. Monique Davis, D-Chicago, told the AP.