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Speed limit increases to 60 mph for large section of Highway 61

A speed limit sign just east of Grand Marais on Highway 61. Photo by Jana Berka
A speed limit sign just east of Grand Marais on Highway 61. Photo by Jana Berka

Motorists traveling the North Shore on Highway 61 are finding higher speed limits just ahead of the holiday season.

The Minnesota Department of Transportation has decided to raise speed limits from 55 to 60 miles per hour on several rural northeastern Minnesota highways as a result of a recent traffic study.  The new stretches moved up to get a 60 mph limit include a long stretch of Highway 61 from Silver Bay to Schroeder, and from Tofte to the Canadian border.

MnDOT said the higher speed limits took effect in recent weeks as new 60 mph signs were posted along the highway.

Over the past 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.

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.

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.