GDOT tries low-cost innovation as alternative to adding lanes

A few months ago, I wrote about the way Washington state has used variable speed limit signs on certain stretches of its highways to slow down traffic ahead of congested areas — thereby avoiding accidents, delaying the onset of gridlock and keeping traffic flowing freely for longer.

Now, it appears we’re going to try a similar tactic along I-285. From the AJC:

The state Department of Transportation on Thursday voted to install variable electronic speed limit signs on the northern half of I-285, where the speed limit will change depending on congestion.

On the southern half, where there is less traffic, the speed limit will simply be raised to 65 mph. DOT officials cautioned the speed limit is still 55 mph all the way around until the project is complete.

The roadway was designed to accommodate higher speeds.

“It’s the principle that it will help to reduce accidents,” said DOT’s chief engineer, Gerald Ross. “And in high speed times — off-peak — you won’t have people jumping in and out of lanes.”

Accidents are of course one of the chief causes of traffic jams. The HERO response units have helped to clear accidents more quickly, but variable speed limits can help prevent more of them from happening.

This is exactly the kind of smarter approach to fighting traffic congestion that we must embrace in the wake of the T-SPLOST’s defeat in metro Atlanta and generally declining transportation funds. There will still be a need for new projects, and money to fund them, but perhaps this is a sign the reality of scarcity is serving to get the creative juices flowing among state transportation planners.

Now, we just have to convince metro Atlanta drivers it’s worthwhile to heed their warnings …

– By Kyle Wingfield

180 comments Add your comment

JF McNamara

September 20th, 2012
4:04 pm

No one obeys the posted speed limit of 55 now. If you’re going less than 80 in the far left lane, you’re going to get run over. That may inhibit those plans. BTW, slower traffic keep right.

oldfart

September 20th, 2012
4:11 pm

@JF McNamara – Theoretically, if the slower traffic kept right there would never be a backup in the left lane on the I-285 circle.

Rafe Hollister, suffering through Oblamer's ineptocracy

September 20th, 2012
4:14 pm

Doesn’t cost much and maybe worth a try. 55 mph was a joke anyway, except during heavy congestion, people refused to drive that slow. Glad they are going to raise the limit. No sure if the variable rates are going to do much to help, people are going to drive as fast as the traffic will allow.

oldfart

September 20th, 2012
4:15 pm

The variable speed limit signs seem to be yet another high tech gizmo where the DOT’s money could best be used elsewhere. They could make it the original design limit of 80MPH for 1950’s vehicles on the northern arc of 285 during rush hour but you will still only do between 0 and 5 MPH.

Finn McCool (The System isn't Broken; It's Fixed)

September 20th, 2012
4:21 pm

Accidents are of course one of the chief causes of traffic jams.

Followed closely by ladders in the road. Why can’t people secure their ladders?

killerj

September 20th, 2012
4:21 pm

So a few billion did not work, so lets play with the speed limit to ensure we make more revenue with fines,just in a bad mood kyle but it still makes me smile that people are nutting up,have a good day.

Finn McCool (The System isn't Broken; It's Fixed)

September 20th, 2012
4:22 pm

I used to get in the HOT lane and cruise along at 70mph – at all times. Fun watching people blow their gaskets.

Junior Samples

September 20th, 2012
4:32 pm

Cars, are the main reason for traffic jams.
The trick is getting more of them off the roads.

MANGLER

September 20th, 2012
4:34 pm

The point of variable speed limits is to have greater control over being able to warn motorists who have not yet encountered the problem area(s) to approach slower than they might otherwise have been going. But you’ll never get that logic through to the drivers who like to go 80 and insist that the left lane exists solely for that purpose.

It’s the same NIMBY attitude that killed TSPLOST and MARTA’s growth over the years and is reflected in driving patterns (and comments). People refuse to accept that the roads were not built solely for them alone and that things occur in areas not directly around them but still may affect them.

The fact that drivers here have yet to understand why they put stop lights at highway on-ramps further proves that traffic logic escapes them. If they did not work and did not serve a traffic control function, then no city would spend the money to install them or enforce them. The biggest complaint there is that is back cars up on the on-ramps. Well, that’s the point. Cars moving at slower speeds having to stop and wait for 3 seconds is much safer than a wall of cars in the acceleration lanes merging with other vehicles moving at much higher speeds.

Streetracer

September 20th, 2012
4:36 pm

Years ago I listened to a State Trooper talk on driver safety. He said that every accident he had investigated was caused at least in part by a mechanical failure; that is the nut holding the wheel. These variable speed limits may convince at least some to pay more attention to what is ahead of them and reduce accidents in the back-up. That is something that seems to happen alot and certainly adds to congestion.

Truth

September 20th, 2012
4:36 pm

Oh goody…..now Dekalb cops will be hiding out waiting for the speed limit to be reduced so they can write you a reveunue enhancer…..

JamVet

September 20th, 2012
4:37 pm

Color me skeptical.

I remember when they banned turbochargers at the Indy500 and forced those cars to slow down due to the carnage.

So raising the already generally unobserved speed limits on Atlanta’s interstates is going to reduce accidents?

Creative juices, indeed!

Truth

September 20th, 2012
4:38 pm

What will be done about the fools on their cell phone more interested in their conversation than the car slowing down in front of them? Another favorite is the traffic merging onto the interstate and immediately heading to the left lane at a whopping 52 MPH

Four more years

September 20th, 2012
4:40 pm

I should have known great idea came from you.

already in the works

September 20th, 2012
4:44 pm

this project had been in the works for months and was going to be implemented with or without the passaeg of TSPOST… A better solution and more funding is still needed to provide some real improvements and congestion relieft.

Truth

September 20th, 2012
4:53 pm

Using the logic of Mangler then the red light cameras were installed for “safety concerns” and not to raise revenue by the local government authority……LOL

Good project

September 20th, 2012
5:03 pm

Kyle, want a good project? Try to find out if all these incentives Georgia is giving movie companies is cost effective. Did you know they can sell their tax credits if they don’t use them. That way, some person who owes Georgia taxes can buy a credit (obviously, at a discount) from a movie company and not have to pay Georgia. I know it’s a glamorous business, but does it make economic sense for a state that needs so much to waste money on making movies?

Centrist

September 20th, 2012
5:20 pm

The signs will only be an alert of a traffic jam ahead if the speeds are reduced. The absurd Carter era 55 MPH speed limit is routinely ignored by the vast majority of drivers and police.

Wasted effort.

Kyle Wingfield

September 20th, 2012
5:21 pm

Mangler: You have the logic correct. And I agree the trick will be getting people to recognize it’s in their own best interest to heed a lower speed limit when posted — no sense in rushing to get to a traffic jam and sit in it.

One thing’s for certain: It will have to take a much better public-education effort than we saw with the I-85 HOT lanes.

Kyle Wingfield

September 20th, 2012
5:22 pm

JamVet: You only read part of what’s happening. The idea is to lower the speed limit when necessary to avoid having too many cars arrive at a congested area too quickly.

Kyle Wingfield

September 20th, 2012
5:28 pm

To all those who say this is about raising revenue: Don’t you think it’d be a lot simpler just to put some cops on that road now? It’d be like shooting fish in a barrel.

Centrist

September 20th, 2012
5:49 pm

GDOT and the police don’t want traffic to slow down unless there is a traffic jam ahead. Traffic moving at 70 – 80 MPH means there will be fewer cars on the road at any one time since more have reached their destinations earlier. It is a simple time and motion study. Assembly lines work on the same principal moving more product on the same line in any given amount of time – as long as there is not a stoppage/bottleneck created from running it too fast.

This is why police have ignored the totally bogus 55 MPH limit that drivers’ disregard – but increasing it without the cover of these new signs is not politically correct.

Gravy Train

September 20th, 2012
6:00 pm

Kyle, I sent you an email last night. Still waiting for a reply…

Anyone that thinks additional revenue is not one of the factors behind this movement has never driven on 285 or 400. Ever notice that every little municipality along those routes now has cops sitting and waiting for you to “speed” through. That’s on top of already being policed by the Highway Patrol and county police. I’m a responsible defensive driver, so it’s no skin off of my nose. I’m just saying…

Gravy Train

September 20th, 2012
6:05 pm

So because they couldn’t get T-SPLOST passed, they have to find another way of generating revenue. Since you didn’t want to pay a whopping one cent tax, they’re going to take it from you one ticket at a time, which will cost you much more than a penny each.

@@

September 20th, 2012
6:26 pm

I can’t remember the last time I was on the perimeter. The quickest path from point A to point B is a straight line.

Not a bad idea. It may be a problem for those prone to hurry up and wait.

Sometimes it’s the simple solutions that work best…cost less too.

Case in point:

Angelenos have lots to say about broken sidewalks, untrimmed trees
Readers have some good ideas; now let’s hear from the mayoral candidates. City policy currently calls for trimming its 700,000 trees only once every 50 years.

The people of Los Angeles, home to hundreds of thousands of unmaintained city-owned trees and roughly 5,000 miles of bad sidewalk, have spoken.

And they’re not happy.

Citizens want to volunteer their services but the politicians would rather spend $10 million dollars for a three-year study on cracks.

schnirt

Lil' Barry Bailout - Vote American

September 20th, 2012
6:43 pm

Seems like a reasonable idea. Part of the traffic problem on the northern arc is folks driving faster than they should and then jamming on the brakes when they get to one of the major off/on ramp areas. Slowing the traffic in between the trouble spots should smooth things out overall, and also reduce accidents caused by the herky jerky changes in speed.

mike

September 20th, 2012
6:48 pm

I say never let a perfectly good opportunity to waste the taxpayer’s money go to waste.

Those “electronic” speed limit signs will feel right at home with the hundreds of needless cameras and the absurd “message boards.”

I say “go with it!” Why not?

Lil' Barry Bailout - Vote American

September 20th, 2012
6:49 pm

Libtards are determined to make any idea fail that doesn’t involve huge tax increases.

mike

September 20th, 2012
6:56 pm

This whole traffic problem could be solved tomorrow if all the rich people living outside the perimeter would just buy helicopters to get and from work.

Then, only the dumb slobs working at McDonalds and not paying taxes would be on the taxpayer-paid highways.

They could get home sooner and have more love childs out of wedlock with their baby daddy and get more welfare!

What could be simpler?

Gravy Train

September 20th, 2012
6:59 pm

Kyle, I thought you had some kind of policing policy for your blog. Yet, here is “Lil’ Barry” using terms like “libtard” As a person with a special needs child in my house, I find that term extremely offensive. Not to mention it makes “Lil’ Barry” look like the real “tard.” I bet all of you wing nuts are proud to be represented by quality folks like “Lil’ Barry” and his obviously high IQ.

mike

September 20th, 2012
7:03 pm

Gravy: Lil’ Barry has already been banned from every other blog at the AJC. This is his last stop.

Tiberius - pulling the tail of the left AND right when needed

September 20th, 2012
7:07 pm

While I find LBB a bit distasteful every now and again, Gravy Train, I find religious bigots like you even more so.

Tiberius - pulling the tail of the left AND right when needed

September 20th, 2012
7:09 pm

Oh, and if you want to reduce traffic accidents, pull over each and every woman who tries to put on makeup while driving, and every guy trying to read his paper or i-Pad.

Escort them home and take away their keys for a week.

Buford T. Justice

September 20th, 2012
7:12 pm

The de facto speed limit is 70mph. Many of us have passed DeKalb, Sandy Springs, etc. looking right at us with radar pointed at our cars and never even blink. They look for super speeders. So how does doing nothing amount to doing something?

Road Scholar

September 20th, 2012
7:12 pm

The speed limit is the speed limit regardless of what it is. Will the cops still provide a “cushion” of 10 mph as they do now?

The paranoids are worried that the variable speed limit will give cops a reason to pull you over to get revenue. They would be paranoid if the limit was 120mph! No they probably won’t make money on tickets….but they will make money at the gas pump since a car uses more gas at higher speeds!
If you remember the real reason for the 55 mph SL, it was to reduce gas/oil usage under Carter!

Now, whether you think this is a good idea (raising the SL to 70) I’ll get your comments as you look in your rear view mirror at a tractor trailer, loaded to the brim, trying to stop or maneuver at that speed in such a tight area! Speeds should be posted lower as congestion increases….now if Atlanta’s drivers can read, process, and actually run the posted speed! Good luck with that! Enforce the “slower traffic keep right” law. Oh, and have more HERO trucks and on call wreckers available to clear those wrecks.

Gravy Train

September 20th, 2012
7:12 pm

Stating facts about cults is not bigoted, pal. If the truth bothers you, stop nominating cult members to represent you.

Gravy Train

September 20th, 2012
7:17 pm

Also, I have a Constitutional Right to examine cults, discuss them and to be free from their influences.

oldfart

September 20th, 2012
7:23 pm

“It will have to take a much better public-education effort than we saw with the I-85 HOT lanes.”

The “HOT lanes”, Express Lanes, Lexus Lanes, whatever the label as implemented so far need far more than better public education. They need to treat the public at large better in being funded like other toll roads with the tolls paying fully for their construction. Toll lanes should only be built as the original GA400 extension was with bonds paid back strictly by the tolls. None of the construction funds should come from the motor fuel tax receipts. The problem they refuse to face up to is that the Lexus Lane users will refuse to pay the actual cost of building the lanes exclusively for their use. If they were to sell bonds for the full cost of just the state’s portion and charge the current tolls on I-85 they would be a century or more paying them off. All of the taxpayers subsidizing a small percentage of the wealthier taxpayers is just not good government.

The proposed amount to come out of Georgia’s share alone for the I-75/I-575 Lexus Lanes is $536 Million, most of which will be siphoned from the motor fuel tax revenues, and after addition of the “free” Federal money the totals will exceed a billion dollars. That is huge money that could be better utilized for some of the needed projects they tried to glom onto some of the TSPLOST pork.

To reiterate, I have no problem with toll roads that pay for themselves but I have no interest in subsidizing their use for the few.

Tiberius - pulling the tail of the left AND right when needed

September 20th, 2012
7:25 pm

“Stating facts about cults is not bigoted, pal.”

No, but stating wrong-headed opinions of them is bigoted.

And you, sir, are a religious bigot.

Gravy Train

September 20th, 2012
7:31 pm

I have stated no “wrong headed opinion.” In fact, I provide facts straight from the source, the LDS. Call me what you will, but the fact remains that the LDS is a cult (look up the definition of the word) and Willard Romney is a pillar of that cult.

Gravy Train

September 20th, 2012
7:35 pm

So, by your reasoning, people like Jim Jones and David Koresh (both eerily similar to Joseph Smith) should be recognized as saints and given the same status as “religion” as you say? We should not be aware of people like this. I’m only trying to expose the things Willard wants to hide.

@@

September 20th, 2012
7:37 pm

My pet peeve with the driving population?

The woman who takes the long route into and out of a parking space. Drive, reverse, drive, reverse, drive, reverse….inches at a time.

I swear…sometimes it seems to take five minutes. It’s not even a parallel parking spot.

David R. Boag, DDS

September 20th, 2012
7:41 pm

Road Scholar @ 7:12,

“If you remember the real reason for the 55 mph SL, it was to reduce gas/oil usage under Carter!”

Actually, in today’s cars, the most economical speed is closer to 65 MPH. It’s been that way for well over a decade.

Jawakatima

September 20th, 2012
7:44 pm

“Now, we just have to convince metro Atlanta drivers it’s worthwhile to heed their warnings …”

Dream on. Hardly anyone observes the speed limit on the Perimeter. The notion that a few flashing signs will tame that Wild West is laughable. The only thing that slows traffic is congestion. Which begs the question, do we want variable speed limits to relieve congestion so people can drive faster and have more accidents.

bluecoat

September 20th, 2012
7:44 pm

I can see it now.You slow down,other pass you,and force way into moving traffic lane ahead of you.

Hillbilly D

September 20th, 2012
7:46 pm

The quickest path from point A to point B is a straight line.

Now assuming the earth is round, or close to it, wouldn’t the quickest path from point A to point B be a curved line, unless it’s a tunnel. (IWH)

They BOTH suck

September 20th, 2012
7:52 pm

Gravy Train

Going after Romney’s faith is as bigoted and ignorant as those who went after Obama and all the bs surrounding it?

Were you ok when the right went after Obama’s faith?

md

September 20th, 2012
7:54 pm

I have to say I’ve enjoyed my solution for several years now……there are jobs out there that do not require one live in the madness that is now the Atl……but it also requires a choice.

My only regret was that I waited as long as I did to make that choice……..sitting in a car for several hours a day vs walking in the park, etc is a colossal waste of time in a lifetime that is much shorter than folks realize…………

Tiberius - pulling the tail of the left AND right when needed

September 20th, 2012
7:56 pm

“Call me what you will, but the fact remains that the LDS is a cult (look up the definition of the word) and Willard Romney is a pillar of that cult.”

Ok, you’re a religious bigot.

And why is your own personal faith so weak that you cannot treat other beliefs in the same light as your own?

mike

September 20th, 2012
7:59 pm

Here’s a little different site than I posted last night:

http://www.electoral-vote.com/

Unfortunately the results are the same. President Barack Obama is going to win in a walk-away.

Not only that, but the Democrats will almost certainly retain control of the Senate and come close to gaining control of the House.