Variable speed limit system along 15-mile stretch of I-95 activates Wednesday

These speed limit signs will gradually change based on real-time road conditions.
The new variable speed limit signs will change depending on road conditions along a 15-mile stretch of northbound I-95.
Published: Jun. 21, 2022 at 5:42 PM EDT|Updated: Jun. 21, 2022 at 5:54 PM EDT
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CAROLINE COUNTY, Va. (WWBT) - Early Wednesday morning, VDOT Fredericksburg said their variable speed limit system would activate along a 15-mile stretch of northbound I-95 between exit 110 (Ladysmith) and exit 130 (Route 3).

The $10 million project on northbound I-95 is being funded through the I-95 Corridor Improvement Program and the Innovation and Technology Transportation Fund, which VDOT hopes will help ease traffic congestion along this stretch of the interstate.

“You’re kind of on the doorstep to Northern Virginia, that big metropolitan Washington D.C. area,” said Kelly Hannon with VDOT Fredericksburg.

On June 16, 48 new LED signs were illuminated and displayed variable speed limits from mile marker 115 to 130. The new LED signs were installed in pairs and are located every half-mile to one mile within this stretch.

Hannon said the speed limits would vary and change depending on real-time road conditions.

“The speed limit, the maximum posted speed limit, is 65 to 70 miles an hour depending on where you are,” Hannon said.

Hannon said if there’s an incident on the interstate, including a crash, or if road conditions are worse, the speed limit will incrementally change.

“We will gradually step down the limit as low as 35 miles an hour to prepare some drivers for some congestion ahead,” Hannon said.

Hannon said vehicle detectors along I-95 will track speed and volume data from cars traveling along the interstate. This data will be sent to a software program, which Hannon said can determine when the speed limit needs to change based on their algorithm.

“It then updates the speed limit sign, so we will gradually step traffic down in increments of 10 miles an hour,” said Hannon.

At a rest stop near mile marker 108, a poster notifies drivers like Chris Swan of the new variable speed limit signs.

Swan travels from his home in Alexandria to visit family in North Carolina and is hopeful this idea will help traffic flow smoother.

“You just stop and go. We can sit for a few minutes almost every single time,” Swan said about his travels along I-95 to get back home. “Coming back home would be a whole lot easier on Sunday afternoons.”

Through this effort, Hannon also hopes these signs will reduce the risk of crashes and improve traffic flow.

“We are going to be doing a lot of analysis here at VDOT. We will be watching it very carefully in the months ahead,” Hannon said. “Other states that have tried it have seen a reduction of about five to nine percent in some other locations, a reduction of crashes, where this has been installed.”

VDOT also uses variable speed limits on Interstate 77 in southwest Virginia as well as on the approaches and in the Hampton Roads Bridge-Tunnel and on the Monitor-Merrimac Memorial Bridge-Tunnel.

On the Virginia 511 website, people can also see the real-time variable speed limits on the interactive map through a new icon.

To learn more about the system, visit the I-95 Northbound Variable Speed Limit project page.

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