By Cynthia M. Jeffries

Daily Journal

Traveling north and south in Lee County might not take as long now that motorists can legally drive 10 mph faster on four-lane, divided highways.

Mississippi Department of Transportation road crews were out Thursday changing the posted speed limit from 55 to 65 mph along some sections of U.S. Highways 45, 72 and Alternate 45.

Workers in Northeast Mississippi started adjusting existing signs Wednesday, a day after the state Transportation Commission met in Jackson to approve the increased speed limit.

All four-lane divided highways in the state are to increase to 65 mph except in areas considered buffer zones,'' such as within city limits or where the road narrows to two lanes, the agency said.

All state two-lane highways will remain at 55 mph or less.

In Northeast Mississippi, the speed limited on U.S. Highway 45 from Shannon to the Tennessee state line has been increased to 65 mph. The limit on U.S. Highway 72 from Corinth to the Alabama state line is also 65 mph. And motorists traveling between Mayhew and West Point on U.S. Alternate Highway 45 will also be greeted with 65 mph signs, said Paul Swindoll, district engineer with the Mississippi Highway Department, Northeast District.

But Swindoll reminds motorists that there are reduced speed limit signs posted along those routes, mostly in incorporated areas. He said motorists need to be on the look out for those areas.

"Whatever the sign has on it is what they are going to have to abide by," Swindoll said.

The latest increase is the second to occur in the state within a little more than a month. In March, the speed limit on Mississippi's four-lane interstate roadways and controlled access highways, such as U.S. Highway 78, was increased to 70 mph.

The need for state legislators to take up the issue of speed limits came late last year when the U.S. Congress returned authority to set speed limits to the states. Congress did away with a 21-year-old, 55 mph, federal speed limit that was set because of an oil embargo.

Many states have set their speed limits at 65, 70 or 75 mph. Montana does not have a limit at all during the daylight hours.

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