Des Moines police will enforce speed limits on Interstate Highway 235 more strictly this year than in recent years.

"With all of the construction, our effort has been to maintain traffic flow, not issue citations," Police Maj. Richard Singleton said. "But, obviously, now the work is done."

In addition, a driver's risk of getting a speeding ticket may be increased by the faster speed limits recently set for portions of the freeway. The limits were changed to reflect the improved traffic flow on the newly completed $429 million renovation project.

But police point out that if motorists are not paying attention to zones posted for slower speeds as they approach the heart of the city, they could find themselves traveling 10 or even 15 mph over the limit.

Drivers will find three separate speed limits as they enter and exit the city on I-235.

From the northeast: Motorists will be coming in from the northeast in a 65 mph zone, which drops to 60 mph at Aurora Avenue, then to 55 mph at Guthrie Avenue. West of downtown, the limit returns to 60 mph at 31st Street.

Singleton said officers commonly allow a cushion of up to 5 mph over the speed limit, sometimes more.

But drivers should know that if they are coming into the city on the freeway from the northeast at 70 mph, or 5 mph over the limit, they will be 15 mph over the limit by the time they reach Guthrie Avenue unless they slow down.

From the west: Similarly, if drivers are coming into Des Moines from the west at 65 mph, or 5 mph over the limit, they will be doing 10 mph over the limit at 31st Street unless they slow down.

During the past calendar year, Des Moines police wrote 24,696 moving traffic citations in the city. Of that number, 3,354 were written on I-235. The numbers are expected to increase this year as officers return to the freeway in full force.

Even during construction last year, Des Moines police wrote 2,396 speeding tickets on the freeway alone.

I-235 is Iowa's busiest stretch of roadway, with more than 110,000 vehicles traveling on it each day.

The Iowa Department of Transportation approved increasing the speed limit from 55 mph to 60 mph in places, saying that the improved freeway can handle traffic at those speeds. Officials said the new speeds are closer to what people already are driving and are safer for everybody.

Des Moines Traffic Engineer Gary Fox said ordinance changes for speed limits on the freeway have been prepared and will be presented at the City Council meeting next week.

Reporter Tom Alex can be reached at (515) 284-8088 or