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