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Author Topic: How areas were defined as rural for 65 speed limit (1980s-90s)  (Read 559 times)

bandit957

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I'm surprised I haven't ever seen this topic brung up on any road forum.

I remember when the national 55 MPH speed limit was changed to allow 65 MPH on rural Interstates, and then on other rural freeways too. This could apply anywhere outside urban areas with at least 50,000 people in states that allowed it.

But how did they define urban and rural? I'm pretty sure they used the Census Bureau's "urbanized areas." These days, these areas don't usually follow city boundaries, but back then they usually did. They were supposed to represent a contiguous urban buildup with at least 50,000. These are not to be confused with metropolitan areas, which are made up of surrounding counties. These "urbanized areas" were considered urban, while everything else was considered rural.

On several family trips as a teenager, I noticed how the states implemented the speed limit. On a trip to Iowa, I noticed that in most states on that trip, the 55 MPH zones extended outside the urban area to the next exit. On a trip to Tennessee, I noticed that Tennessee seemed to impose 55 MPH only within the boundaries of the urban area. So when a road left an urban area, it went up to 65 MPH even if there was no exit there. I think I-24 just grazed the city of Clarksville, and the urban area boundary coincided with the city limits, since that's where the speed limit changed. I also remember that in Ohio, I-75 was 55 MPH the whole way from Cincinnati to Dayton, even though there was a little bit of rural area in between.

Back then, I think Kentucky didn't have to lower the speed limit for Bowling Green, because the "urbanized area" didn't have 50,000 yet.
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bandit957

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Re: How areas were defined as rural for 65 speed limit (1980s-90s)
« Reply #1 on: August 01, 2019, 01:19:40 AM »

I also remember seeing a map in the local newspaper showing which states had raised the speed limit. I remember that Delaware was one of very few states that had no roads eligible for 65 MPH. The only Interstates in Delaware were urban. Also, I think Alaska and Hawaii also may have had no eligible roads.
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jeffandnicole

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Re: How areas were defined as rural for 65 speed limit (1980s-90s)
« Reply #2 on: August 01, 2019, 05:52:51 AM »

I recall reading that the NJ Turnpike in the southern part of the state couldn't have 65 mph between Exits 2 and 3 because of Philly, even though between Exits 2 & 3 are some of the lightest traffic volumes of the entire NJ Turnpike.  Also, I'm not sure how that would have worked out anyway - the NJ Turnpike isn't an interstate highway per-se in that area anyway (only a state route).  Since NJ never adopted the 65 mph limit during the latter part of the NMSL, there were some reports of which roads would qualify or not qualify, but the boundaries were never truly identified.
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Beltway

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Re: How areas were defined as rural for 65 speed limit (1980s-90s)
« Reply #3 on: August 01, 2019, 07:48:28 AM »

Probably by the Standard Metropolitan Statistical Areas defined by Office of Management and Budget in 1973.

That is the way it appeared by where the 65/55 transitions were.
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hbelkins

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Re: How areas were defined as rural for 65 speed limit (1980s-90s)
« Reply #4 on: August 01, 2019, 02:26:39 PM »

The original repeal of NMSL applied to interstates only.

Kentucky State Police took advantage of that and lightened the wallets of a lot of Alabama football fans in 1988. They were used to driving 65 on I-65, but didn't slow to 55 on the Bluegrass Parkway on their way to Lexington, despite there being not a penny's worth of difference in the quality of the roads.

Love him or hate him, thank Mitch McConnell for getting that NMSL repeal extended to all freeways. Because Kentucky has so much rural non-interstate freeway mileage (the parkways), he led the effort to get the speed limit on them raised to 65 as well.
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doorknob60

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Re: How areas were defined as rural for 65 speed limit (1980s-90s)
« Reply #5 on: August 01, 2019, 04:02:37 PM »

The original repeal of NMSL applied to interstates only.

Kentucky State Police took advantage of that and lightened the wallets of a lot of Alabama football fans in 1988. They were used to driving 65 on I-65, but didn't slow to 55 on the Bluegrass Parkway on their way to Lexington, despite there being not a penny's worth of difference in the quality of the roads.

Oregon had, and still has, that problem. Many US/state highways east of the Cascades now allow 65 MPH (and 70 on US-95), but only US-97 has freeway segments. Any highway roughly west of US-97/197 is legally maxed at 55 (or 65 for interstates). As in, ODOT couldn't raise it if they wanted to, it would take an act of legislature. OR-22 east of Salem, and US-26 in suburban Portland (eg. near Hillsboro) are the worst examples. High quality freeways that could support 65+, even by Oregon's standards, but are capped at 55, and often targets of enforcement because it's easy pickings.

The only real saving grace is Oregon doesn't have many non interstate freeways (not saying non-freeways can't be > 55. They can, and many definitely should. But freeways are definitely more important to have higher speeds). Most of the ones that do exist, either are urban (so would probably be 55 anyways), or are not terribly long (like, ~20 miles). Looking at neighboring Washington, where the US-395 freeway is 70 MPH, I always thought of that in my head, as "thank god this isn't in Oregon or it would be 55" (though since 2016 it would have been bumped up like US-97, etc.).

Hot Rod Hootenanny

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Re: How areas were defined as rural for 65 speed limit (1980s-90s)
« Reply #6 on: August 02, 2019, 11:17:35 PM »


But how did they define urban and rural? I'm pretty sure they used the Census Bureau's "urbanized areas." These days, these areas don't usually follow city boundaries, but back then they usually did. They were supposed to represent a contiguous urban buildup with at least 50,000. These are not to be confused with metropolitan areas, which are made up of surrounding counties. These "urbanized areas" were considered urban, while everything else was considered rural.


Yep, Census Bureau defined urban areas. When Ohio originally went to 65, it was everything* outside of I-270, in Central Ohio. Then they allowed a chunk of I-270 between Dublin & Hilliard (before Tuttle Mall was opened), to be 65 MPH in the early 90s.

* Everything = till I-70 & 71 reached the next urban area.
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jp the roadgeek

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Re: How areas were defined as rural for 65 speed limit (1980s-90s)
« Reply #7 on: August 04, 2019, 07:20:25 PM »

CT was extremely strange when it went to 65.  There was no differentiation between interstates and state highways; just had to be classified as rural.  The "rural" criterion was a little stringent though.  CT 9 through New Britain and I-691 were allowed a 65 limit from the get go.  However, the stretch of I-84 between Waterbury and Hartford remained at 55 until just last year.  The portion of I-84 between I-691 and CT 72 is much more rural than I-691 through Meriden, and is 6 lanes while I-691 is only 4 until you get to Exit 7.  However, I-84 remained at 55 until March of 2018 (and 50 through the CT 72 interchange, which was raised to 55 simultaneously). 

The original 65 zones were

I-84: Exit 8-17 and Exit 58-MA line.  (Exit 25A-Exit 33 and Exit 36-39A have since been added)
I-91: Exit 8-16, Exit 19-25, and Exit 34-MA line
I-95: Near Exit 53-Exit 75 and Exit 86-RI Line
I-291, I-384, I-395, I-691: Entire length (the short portion of I-684 was added when NYSDOT raised it to 65).
US 6: Willimantic bypass
CT 2: Exit 8-24
CT 8: Exit 37-US 44
CT 9: All except the Exit 11-18 portion through Middletown
CT 11: Entire length
CT 20: Bradley-I-91

There are 4 stretches that are still 55 but can handle 65: CT 8 from CT 25 to Exit 25, CT 25 north of the 8/25 split to CT 111, US 7 north of I-84 to US 202, and SR 695 from I-395 to US 6. 
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Rothman

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Re: How areas were defined as rural for 65 speed limit (1980s-90s)
« Reply #8 on: August 04, 2019, 09:49:21 PM »

Yeah, I just drove that stretch of CT 8 and tried to drive the usual 8-9 miles over the 55 mph and people still blew by me.  Move it to 65.
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