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Variable speed limits introduced on stretch of I-95 to ease congestions, crashes

Variable speed limits between 35 mph and 70 mph will be displayed. Those speed limits will change based on real-time information about delays and road conditions.

SPOTSYLVANIA, Va. — Starting Wednesday, drivers passing through a stretch of northbound Interstate 95 may experience lower speed limits. 

The Virginia Department of Transportation has completed its variable speed limit project to enhance safety in the I-95 northbound corridor. The new LED signage is now up between mile markers 115 and 130 in Caroline and Spotsylvania counties. 

They signs are spread out through the 15-mile stretch, about every half mile. VDOT says that stretch of roadway is no smooth ride. Drivers deal with crashes and congestion on a daily basis. 

Crashes in that area happen when northbound vehicles travel at a speed too high when they encounter stopped or slowing traffic because of lane closures and highway work zones, according to VDOT. That's where variable speed limits can help. 

RELATED: Northern Virginia building commuter route connecting I-95, I-66 and Rt.1

Here's how VDOT explains it: If you put rice through a funnel too quickly, like traffic, it clogs. If it is brought in much slower, the rice, and traffic, gets through much faster. The goal is to ease congestion and increase safety in that area. 

"It causes drivers to drive a little more aware, more alert and will reduce some of the crashes caused by those sudden stop and go conditions. The crashes on this corridor are high and about 50 percent of them are rear end crashes, so definitely caused by people not being aware of the slow downs," VDOT's Assistant State Traffic Engineer, Mena Lockwood said. 

Until Wednesday, the signs will only display the maximum speed limit allowed. According to VDOT, this gives drivers some time to get used to the new signage. Speed limits will only be reduced when necessary. Vehicle detectors will pick up traffic speed and volume data, which will factor into the changing lower speeds. Once traffic flow is back to normal, the posted speed limit will return to the maximum speed allowed. The variable speed limit signs can also be manually changed by VDOT's Traffic Operations Center to create safer conditions in work zones and weather events.  

RELATED: I-495 express lanes to be expanded between Dulles Corridor and GW Memorial Parkway

Variable speed limits are part of the I-95 Corridor Improvement Plan. The project comes with a $10.6 million price tag. If the variable speed limits are successful in Spotsylvania, the goal is to bring the technique to other areas in Virginia.

RELATED: Traffic Alert: Portion of I-270 shut down for days due to 25-foot hole

RELATED: Lowering speed limits on I-95 in Virginia to address congestion, crashes

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