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Boreal Community Media

Higher Speed Limits for Drivers Headed to Ely, Grand Marais

Jan 25, 2019 08:14AM ● By Editor
Drivers will soon find higher speed limits on another dozen stretches of Northland roads, including parts of Highway 61. | Photo: WDIO-TV file

 From WDIO-TV - January 24, 2019

People who regularly drive between Ely and Virginia, up the North Shore past Silver Bay, and on numerous other stretches of rural Northland highways are about to find higher speed limits.

The Minnesota Department of Transportation has decided to raise speed limits from 55 to 60 miles per hour on a dozen stretches of rural northeastern Minnesota highways as a result of a traffic study.  The new stretches slated to get a 60 mph limit include:

  • Highway 1 from Ely to Red Lake, except for a five-mile stretch west of Togo
  • Highway 6 from Deer River to Highway 1
  • Highway 23 from Sandstone to Duluth
  • Highway 37 from Hibbing to U.S. Highway 53, and from Eveleth to Gilbert
  • Highway 38 from Grand Rapids to Itasca County Road 19
  • Highway 61 from Silver Bay to Schroeder, and from Tofte to the Canadian border
  • Highway 65 from Cambridge to U.S. Highway 169 and from Buck Lake to Highway 1
  • Highway 72 from Highway 1 to Baudette
  • Highway 73 from Cromwell to Hibbing, and from Chisholm to U.S. Highway 53
  • Highway 135 from U.S. Highway 53 to Aurora
  • Minnesota Highway 169 from U.S. Highway 53 to Highway 1
  • U.S. Highway 169 from Hill City to Grand Rapids, and from Bovey to Minnesota Highway 65

MnDOT said the higher speed limits will take effect as soon as new signs are posted, which should take place by this spring.

Over the five years, MnDOT studied 7,000 miles of rural, two-lane highways and decided to raise the speed limit on 5,240 miles of the segments studied. The $1.2 million study was ordered by the Minnesota Legislature and is the largest system-wide change in Minnesota speed limits since 1974.

Many other stretches of Minnesota highway, such as U.S. Highway 2 from Grand Rapids to Cohasset, have already been switched to higher speed limits in recent years.  MnDOT studied traffic speeds on some highways with the higher limit and found that the mean speed of all drivers increased by only one mile per hour, and that drivers' speeds were more consistent.

"This is a desirable outcome, but this change is very slight and may not affect the frequency or severity of crashes," cautioned Nathan Drews, engineering specialist in the MnDOT Office of Traffic Engineering.

The stretches of highway that MnDOT decided to keep at 55 miles per hour include Highway 61 from Two Harbors to Beaver Bay and from Schroeder to Tofte.  When weighing whether to raise the speed limit, MnDOT considered current traffic speeds, access points, shoulder width, vertical grades, and crash history.

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