Rural segments of several Oklahoma turnpikes now have the green light for a higher maximum speed limit. While this won’t impact urban areas on these routes, all drivers should still keep a close eye on their speedometers as changes are made over the next several months.
At its July 28 meeting, the Oklahoma Turnpike Authority approved the proposal to raise posted speeds from 75 mph to 80 mph on rural segments of five turnpikes, and to establish an 80 mph maximum speed limit on the Kickapoo Turnpike, which is scheduled to open later this year. These locations total 104 miles and include:
• Turner Turnpike from mile marker (MM) 203 to MM 216, between Bristow and Sapulpa, 13 miles
• Muskogee Turnpike from MM 2 to MM 33, between Muskogee and Tulsa, 31 miles
• Cherokee Turnpike from MM 3 to MM 28, 25 miles
• Indian Nation Turnpike from MM 93 to MM 104, between SH-9 and I-40, 11 miles
• H.E. Bailey Turnpike (Norman Spur) from MM 102 to MM 107, 5 miles
• Kickapoo Turnpike (scheduled to open later this year) from MM 130 to MM 149, between I-40 and the Turner Turnpike, 19 miles
Existing speed limits on rural turnpikes like the Will Rogers Turnpike, main segment of the H.E. Bailey Turnpike, Cimarron Turnpike and Chickasaw Turnpike will not be changed as part of this action, based on factors considered.
With today’s approval, work can begin to manufacture and install the new 80 mph signs for each of these corridors. This process could take several months to complete. Until the new signs are in place, the Oklahoma Highway Patrol says it will be enforcing the current posted speed limit. Drivers will need to pay attention in the corridors before revving up or else they’ll risk a ticket.
“With any change, it is imperative for drivers to do their part for safety by following the posted speed limits and being alert to the surrounding traffic conditions,” Oklahoma Secretary of Transportation Tim Gatz said. “We will be closely monitoring these corridors and if the new speed limits are creating an unsafe situation, we will consider adjustments to ensure the safety of the traveling public.”
The recent passage of 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. Both OTA and the Oklahoma Department of Transportation studied potential locations to be candidates on each of their systems. The agencies considered several safety factors including roadway geometry, sight distance, collision history, traffic flows and existing speed patterns to determine eligible locations. Discussions with safety and law enforcement partners were also key to the decision making process and will be ongoing. Again, urban areas were not considered as part of this process, but the Creek Turnpike and John Kilpatrick Turnpike could be considered in the future based on how drivers handle the current changes.
The Oklahoma Transportation Commission will consider recommendations at its August 3 meeting for maximum speed limit increases on segments of rural interstates maintained by ODOT.