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Higher speed limit debuts in Va.

Crews install 70 mph speed limit signs on Interstate 295 near Richmond.
(Trevor Wrayton, VDOT)

A 27-mile stretch of Interstate 295 near Richmond will be the first section of Virginia interstate where motorists will be able to legally travel 70 mph. The law changing the limit from 65 went into effect Thursday. The stretch of highway runs east of Richmond to I-295's southern intersection with I-95 near Petersburg.

Others sections may follow, said Virginia Department of Transportation spokesman Jeff Caldwell.

There are 741 miles of interstate eligible for study for higher speeds depending on analyses of road characteristics, prevailing traffic speeds and crash data, he said.

And watch out on those new 70 mph stretches. State troopers and other police agencies won't be as forgiving of people exceeding the higher posted speed.
The law also reduces to just 11 mph the margin between the legal speed limit and a reckless driving citation with a mandatory court appearance, prohibitive fines and possible jail time. State law defines any driver going 81 mph or more as reckless.

-- Associated Press

By Michael Bolden  | July 1, 2010; 6:27 PM ET
Categories:  Highways, Virginia  
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"A 27-mile stretch of Interstate 295 near Richmond will be the first section of Virginia interstate where motorists will be able to legally travel 70 mph."

I-295 is not the first section in VA to get the bump to 70. I-85 from just south of Petersburg to the North Carolina line, a stretch of about 61 miles, has had a 70 mph limit for several years now. I can't vouch for portions of any other interstates having their speed limit recently raised to 70.

Posted by: jcbcmb68 | July 1, 2010 10:42 PM | Report abuse

I-85 was posted at 70 mph under a previously-enacted law that allowed a 70-mph speed limit on that road (and on no other in the Commonwealth). This year the General Assembly and the governor amended the statute to allow 70-mph limits on all Interstates, barrier-separated HOV lanes (which only exist on Interstates at the moment anyway), and certain other roads. The Dulles Greenway and Toll Road are eligible under the terms of the statute, for example. Jeff Caldwell's statement that 741 miles of Interstate are eligible for the higher limit is misleading. What he should have said is that VDOT is initially considering only 741 miles of Interstates that are presently posted at 65 mph. The Dulles Greenway is clearly eligible for a 70-mph limit under the statute, and probably ought to be posted at 70, but VDOT isn't considering it (for the time being, anyway).

The statute doesn't make a 70-mph limit automatic on any road. It requires VDOT to complete traffic and engineering studies before changing anything. According to the Richmond-area media, I-95 from the southern end of I-295 to the North Carolina state line was considered for 70 mph but was rejected for now because VDOT decided that guardrail improvements were needed.

I-295 is the first, and so far the only, road to receive the higher limit under the new statute. It's pretty easy to anticipate certain other routes that ought to follow fairly soon, such as I-64 from west of Short Pump to either Charlottesville or Crozet (limit dropping down before hitting Afton Mountain, which is notorious for crashes in bad weather), I-66 from Haymarket west to I-81, probably a large part of I-81 south of Roanoke, I-95 between Fredericksburg and Ashland, and maybe I-77 between I-81 and Fancy Gap. I-66 from Haymarket to Fair Lakes SHOULD be posted at 70 mph once the road construction in Gainesville is completed, but it's not likely to be done even though the road is clearly designed for speeds of at least 70 mph. I think it's pretty clear that if a road is not now posted at 65 mph (even if a road SHOULD now be posted at 65), VDOT will not consider posting it at 70.

Posted by: 1995hoo | July 1, 2010 10:59 PM | Report abuse

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