Higher speed limits to take effect in mid-July

Nebraska drivers will start to see higher speed limits on most two-lane highways across the state after July 19.

That’s when Sen. Dan Hughes’ LB 1009 officially becomes law. Hughes made it his priority bill in the recently completed 60-day session. 

This bill authorizes the Nebraska Department of Transportation to increase highway speed limits. 

The speed limit can be increased by a maximum of 5 mph on two-lane highways, four-lane divided highways that are not part of the state highway system, expressways and freeways that are a part of the state highway system, and on portions of highways in Douglas, Lancaster and Dakota counties. 

Kurt Vosburg, district engineer for the department’s District 7, said the state office is busily evaluating all of the eligible roads throughout the state.

He said one issue is the transition speed limit zones coming into communities. State statue does not allow a drop of more than 20 mph between speed zones. 

So if a transition zone is less than 45 mph on a two-lane highway,  he said they will have to work with the communities on creating another speed zone. This would likely require city ordinance changes in those communities. 

Vosburg said they hope to have the needed reviews complete in time for the July 19 start date of the law. 

However, he reminded drivers the current speed limits will not change until the new speed limit signs are posted. 

He added the evaluation must show that a highway can handle the higher speed limit so it’s possible some roads in District 7 may not increase to 65 mph.

Highways with shoulders, such as Hwy. 34 through the district, already have a 65-mph speed limit. Vosburg said those highways will not see a 5-mph increase to 70 mph.

Sen. Hughes said his original bill would have allowed for certain stretches of I-80 to be raised to 80 mph. This was taken out of the bill during debate on the floor of the legislature.

He said there was some push back from the truckers association during committee hearings on the bill which resulted in this being eliminated. 

There were also safety concerns about on-ramp lengths and being able to reach the appropriate speed before merging in with traffic, he added.

District 7 projects

Vosburg said several projects are planned for District 7 this summer. 

Highway 61 north from Grant to the Keith County line will be redone with new paving and paved shoulders. He said the lack of paved shoulders on this stretch of road was the number one complaint about the highway. 

Work has begun on Hwy. 6 between Indianola and Cambridge. Vosburg said they will be replacing bridges on the stretch this summer and repaving next summer. 

Eleven miles of Highway 34 west from the 61/34 junction south of Benkelman will be repaved.

The Grant Tribune-Sentinel

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