Safety advocate weighs in on I-17 speed limit change being considered by ADOT

ADOT is taking a public survey about increasing the speed limit of Interstate 17 in Phoenix but a safety advocate warns it'll mean more deadly crashes.
Published: Sep. 19, 2023 at 9:31 PM MST
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PHOENIX (3TV/CBS 5) — There may soon be a jump in the speed limit on an Arizona interstate. Parts of Interstate 17 could soon go from 55 to at least 65 miles per hour and possibly even higher. The new law passed about two months ago, SB 1102, requires a speed limit of at least 65 mph on any interstate in counties with at least 3 million. Although it may not sound like a big change, experts say even the smallest increase could raise the driver’s risk of injury or even death.

If you drive I-17, you’ve most likely seen speed limit signs posted between the I-10 split and Peoria Avenue. “It’s been 55 miles per hour for quite some time, decades,” said Arizona Department of Transportation spokesman Doug Nintzel.

Although, it doesn’t necessarily mean you’ve followed them. We asked ADOT why it’s considering the change. “Well, it really does come down to the fact that this was included in the legislation, so that directs us to take a look at this,” Nintzel said.

But not everyone thinks it’s a good idea, including Ed Taube with the Arizona Chapter of the National Safety Council. “There is no doubt in my mind that crashes and collisions will go up, injuries will go up, fatalities will go up because of human behavior,” Taube said. “If you have a 65 speed limit, people are going to cheat, go 75 and think that’s going to be OK.”

With a public survey running through the middle of October, ADOT will look at just how fast drivers should be going. “What we’re really looking for is a speed that the majority of drivers would really be comfortable with,” said Nintzel.

Although it may get you where you’re going faster, experts say it won’t be by much. “The difference between 55 and 65 miles per hour is less than two and a half minutes,” Taube said.

He says even then, the nearly 15-mile stretch is almost always too congested during rush hour to drive any faster. “The only time this would really make much of a difference would be late at night, early morning hours. The rest of the day, it’s almost impossible to go 65 even if you wanted to,” Taube said.

A lot of people are also wondering if the state Route 51 will see a change in speed limit with this new law, but the wording in it strictly mentions interstates. With the 51 being a state route, it will not be considered under this new law.

You can take part in the online survey from now through Saturday, Sept. 30, at, by email at, and by phone at 1-855-712-8530. Comments also can be mailed to: I-17 Speed Limit Study, ADOT Community Relations, 1655 W. Jackson St., MD 126F, Phoenix, AZ 85007.

SB 1102 also stipulates that a lower speed limit can be set if certain conditions are met, including:

  • A lower limit is deemed necessary based on an independent engineering study or roadway assessment.
  • The overall system capacity and mobility along the freeway will not be reduced.
  • An opportunity for public input is provided.

The I-17 speed limit study is scheduled for completion in mid-October.

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