Committee moves forward with speed increase efforts

Local chambers of commerce are hoping to increase the speed limit on parts of U.S. 68/Ky. Hwy. 80 in southern Kentucky. The predominately four-lane highway is 55 mph through Calloway and Graves counties. || Austin Ramsey/The News

Local chambers of commerce are hoping to increase the speed limit on parts of U.S. 68/Ky. Hwy. 80 in southern Kentucky. The predominately four-lane highway is 55 mph through Calloway and Graves counties. || Austin Ramsey/The News

The Murray-Calloway County Chamber of Commerce Advocacy Committee is maintaining relationships with surrounding area chambers to endorse possible legislation that would increase the speed limit on U.S. 68/Ky. Hwy. 80 to 65 mph.

The combined federal and state highway project intertwines east across Kentucky and acts as a vital transportation route for cities like Murray, Hopkinsville and Bowling Green. For years, the corridor was left predominately dormant west of the Kentucky and Barkley lakes; Ky. Hwy. 80 that split from U.S. 68 at the Kentucky Lake was only a two-lane road for decades until local officials banded together to urge Kentucky governors Ernie Fletcher and Steve Beshear to widen the route.

With expanded roadways come faster speeds, but local officials say those cannot come soon enough.

Speeds on the widened road between Cadiz and Bowling Green were increased in September. That effort had been spearheaded by a coalition of chambers in Trigg, Christian and Todd counties called the Southern Pennyrile Alliance.

The M-CC chamber assisted the SPA in case studies and contacting state and local officials, but Allison said work had already been done, and the governor’s announcement earlier this year was no surprise to him.

“We got into the game late,” he said. “That’s why (the alliance’s) is already approved. They had been working on it for over a year.”

For whatever reason, Allison said, when the governor announced increased speed limits on the now four-lane corridor, the expansion of roadway west of Cadiz, Ky., across the wetlands region was left out.

Some portions of the 68/80 highway, particularly around Cadiz, have not undergone widening and some projects are in the making, but Allison hopes the higher speeds can at least be reflected once the highway crosses west across the lakes and enters Calloway County. There, he said, the four-lane road remains 55 mph, and frankly, that is just too slow.

The Advocacy Committee is still hoping to convince state authorities that higher speeds are safe and necessary. Allison said the Southern Pennyrile Alliance is still planning to help counties like Calloway and Graves west of the lakes in their efforts to garner support.

As of now, the Murray City Council has written a letter of support for the increase, and Allison said he expects a letter from the County Fiscal Court soon. The Murray Convention and Visitors Bureau has also verbally given support toward the chamber’s cause.

Officials hope a speed increase would develop more Murray tourism. Ky. Hwy. 80 crosses North 12th Street just outside city limits. With higher speeds, Allison said people might see the road as a more viable route, rather than depending on interstates.

The M-CC chamber is specifically interested in effecting change in GPS routing. Currently, popular guidance devices recommend bypassing Murray because speeds around the city max out at 55 mph. With a higher speed limit, devices would likely suggest using Hwy. 80 in the Jackson Purchase region. That is good for everyone, Allison said, even students.

“It’s going to be important to get that increase here,” he said. “For prospective students, having this speed increase will prevent pushing people around us when they’re looking to find us. It’s all about finding the area.”

Story by Austin Ramsey, Editor-in-Chief.