Herald JournalHerald Journal, Sept. 26, 2005

Highway 7 speed limit set to increase

By Ryan Gueningsman
Staff Writer

Plans are in the works for a speed limit increase on Highway 7 and several other highways throughout the state.

The Minnesota Department of Transportation (MnDOT) will be releasing a plan Monday, Sept. 26 to increase the speed limit on several state highways, including Highway 7, from 55 mph to 60 mph.

“Why are they doing it? That’s a good question,” said McLeod County Attorney Mike Junge, who expressed concern regarding the prosecution of those issued speeding tickets due to the increase in the speed limit. He said money has been given to local and state law enforcement to enforce the new speed limits, but no money has been given to prosecutors or court systems.

Junge said while that is one of the issues he is concerned about, the main issue is whether it is going to make the highway safer.

“I don’t think so,” he said. “We have a relatively high problem with safety on Highway 7, and I don’t see this helping.”

McLeod County Commissioner Sheldon Nies told the county board last week that MnDOT claims the increased speed limit will reduce accidents.

State Representative Scott Newman (R-Hutchinson) said the plan may also have the effect of slowing people down – if it is enforced.

“They are going to raise it to 60 mph and strictly enforce that speed limit,” Newman said. He also said this is a MnDOT initiative, and not something passed by the legislature.

MnDOT officials declined to comment much about the plan, which is set to be released today.

“There will be some changes that will take place,” said Kevin Gutknecht of the MnDOT.

It is thought that with this plan, the Department of Public Safety, county, and local law enforcement agencies will enforce speed limits more aggressively on Highway 7 and the other highways facing speed limit increases.

The state plans to spend $2.5 million over the next year on additional enforcement on Highway 7 and other roadways where speed limits are being increased to 60 mph.

The speed limit on Highway 7 has been 55 mph since the 1970s. It was not known at press time when the speed limit change will go into effect.

Crash statistics for ‘04

Across the state, there were 91,274 traffic crashes in 2004. This amount is actually the lowest number of crashes in Minnesota since 1982 when 89,443 were recorded, according to the Office of Traffic Safety.

In McLeod County, two people were killed on the roadways within the county in 2004, and there were 267 people injured as the result of a traffic accident.

In Carver County, four people were killed on the roadways within the county in 2004, and there were 560 people injured as the result of a traffic accident.

In Wright County, 15 people were killed on the roadways within the county in 2004, and there were 814 people injured as the result of a traffic accident.


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