Thursday, July 1, 2010

Virginia's First 70mph Speed Limit Increase

Governor Bob McDonnell today announced the first stretch of Virginia interstate to post a 70mph speed limit under new state law that went into effect today, July 1.

Earlier today, Lieutenant Governor Bill Bolling and Secretary of Transportation Sean Connaughton unveiled the new 70mph sign along I-295 from I-95 in Prince George County south of Petersburg to just south of the Route 60/Interstate 64 interchange in Henrico County. While campaigning for governor, McDonnell proposed the speed limit increase to 70 mph in rural and less populated areas as a way to improve transportation in the commonwealth.

House Bill 856 and Senate Bill 537 passed by the General Assembly and signed by Governor Bob McDonnell in March, allows the Virginia Department of Transportation (VDOT) to increase the maximum highway speed limit to 70 mph on certain highways after the completion of a traffic engineering study.

Doubt we'll see any 70mph increases here in Loudoun County, even though most motorists are already going that speed! But what do you think Loudoun County commuters? Think increasing the speed limit is a good idea or are we going fast enough already? Comment below.

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  1. The Dulles Greenway is one road that is eligible for a 70-mph speed limit under the newly-amended statute and that should be considered for it. Currently VDOT is only considering Interstates that are already posted at 65 mph, but there is really no good reason not to consider the Greenway. It's a better road than probably 75% of the Interstates in Virginia as it is.

    I know some people will squawk that "if you post it at 70, people will drive 80." Experience from around the country shows that isn't true. People tend to drive at the speed they feel is appropriate, regardless of the number on the sign, with the exception of people who feel that the law is the law. This latter group will obey the posted limit but will go faster if the limit is raised. Of course you have some drivers (the elderly being the stereotypical example) who are intimidated by highway speeds, but that's a different problem. Anyway, New York State found that when they finally allowed 65-mph limits in 1995, the average speed on the Thruway increased from 65 mph to 68 mph--hardly a significant difference, and one that can quite easily be traced to the "speed-limit obeyers" speeding up from 55 to 65. In 2009 Utah raised a segment of I-15 from a 75-mph limit to an 80-mph limit. Average speeds went from 81 mph to 83 mph. Again, hardly a significant difference. There is no reason to think Virginia will experience anything different.

    The big BENEFIT of a 70-mph speed limit is that it reduces speed variance. The slower drivers are often the bigger danger than the faster drivers because they obstruct traffic, especially if they are the obnoxious type who hog the left lane and force people to snake in and out of traffic to pass. It's well-established that highways are safer when more of the traffic is flowing at similar speeds. When you have a 55- or 65-mph speed limit but a lot of the traffic is doing 70, you promote speed variance and you decrease safety.

    The real risk for Virginia drivers is that the reckless driving statute has not changed. Anything over 80 mph is still grounds for a reckless, regardless of the speed limit, so 81 in a 70 zone can get you a reckless.

    Of course I recognize that not all highways should be posted at 70, especially in the case of work zones (the Beltway HOT lane project is a prime example, as is the Gainesville area on I-66). But there are other roads that are not presently eligible for a 70-mph limit that ought to be made eligible, such as VA-7 between Clark's Gap and Round Hill.

  2. Thanks "Anonymous" for your comments. Excellent arguments and well thought out... thanks for providing your feedback. We'll be sure to pass this along to our contacts at VDOT.

  3. Raise the speed limit in New Hampshire from 65mph to 70mph.

  4. Boost the speed limit in New Hampshire from 65mph to 70mph.

  5. Increase the speed limit in New Hampshire from 65mph to 70mph.

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