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Virginia to raise some speed limits

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

Speed limit proposal (PDF)

[This post has been updated ]

Virginia will increase speed limits to 70 mph on 680 miles of interstates by the end of the year.

Gov. Robert F. McDonnell announced the change Wednesday. It will affect interstates located in areas that are rural or less populated. It includes segments of Interstate 66, from Faquier County to Interstate 81 and Interstate 95 from south of Fredricksburg to Ashland and from Prince George County to the North Carolina border.

The Virginia Department of Transportation outlined the plan at a meeting of the Commonwealth Transportation Board on Wednesday.

State officials said in a statement that the change should help shortern commute times and allow traffic "to move at a more consistent speed."

VDOT considered raising the limit on 786 of the commonwealth's 1,119 interstate miles, reviewing historical data and patterns and consulting with Virginia State Police, officials said. But engineers determined that the speed limit should remain at 65 mph on 189 miles of interstate because they were located in urban areas, had high crash histories or were located in one of the commonwealth's highway safety corridors.

The changes will be phased in, with the work scheduled to be finished by the end of the year and including guardrail upgrades and the addition of extra signage.

The plan includes most of Interstate 81 and sections of Interstates 64, 66, 77, 85 and 95.

A law passed earlier this year by the General Assembly gives VDOT the authority to raise the speed limit on interstates and other limited-access highways.

A 27-mile stretch of Interstate 295 near Richmond was the first section of Virginia interstate where the speed limit was raised to 70 mph this summer.

The law also reduced 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. Virginia law defines any driver going 81 mph or more as reckless.

-- Staff and wire reports

What do you think about raising the speed limit in certain areas? Post a comment below.

By Michael Bolden  | October 20, 2010; 12:25 PM ET
Categories:  Transportation Politics, Virginia  
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Comments

Speed limits don't matter if they aren't enforced. In many areas, speeding by 5mph means you are dangerously slow.

Posted by: getjiggly1 | October 20, 2010 10:29 AM | Report abuse

I can't even remember the last time I drove in southern or central Virginia, but if the conditions warrant higher speed limits, then they should be implemented. Treating non-urban areas as if they were urban is nonsensical.

Posted by: WashingtonDame | October 20, 2010 10:58 AM | Report abuse

I remember back in the day when it was considered patriotic to have lower speed limits because it reduced our dependency on foreign oil. I guess McDonnell and his GOP crew don't care about that stuff.

Posted by: hohandy1 | October 20, 2010 10:59 AM | Report abuse

What is unfortunate is VDOT's refusal to consider "Interstate look-alikes" that don't bear Interstate numbers but that are, under the statute, eligible for the 70-mph limit. The statute (Va Code 46.2-870) provides, in pertinent part, as follows:

"Notwithstanding the foregoing provisions of this section, the maximum speed limit shall be 70 miles per hour where indicated by lawfully placed signs, erected subsequent to a traffic engineering study and analysis of available and appropriate accident and law-enforcement data, on: (i) interstate highways, (ii) multilane, divided, limited access highways, and (iii) high-occupancy vehicle lanes if such lanes are physically separated from regular travel lanes."

The Dulles Greenway, for example, falls under provision (ii) and is clearly a road that ought to be considered for a 70-mph speed limit. It's a better road than large portions of Virginia's Interstates and it carries less traffic than some portions of the roads recommended for the 70-mph limit. I-66 from VA-28 west to Haymarket is another road that ought to be posted at something higher than it is now (60 mph from US-29 at Centreville to VA-234 Business at Manassas being the most absurd limit along there). Come to think of it, the westbound lanes between Fair Oaks Mall and Centreville ought to have a higher limit than the eastbound lanes. I understand a lower limit for eastbound traffic because of how bad the road is east of Fair Oaks, but going westbound there's no corresponding issue.

Obviously there are very good reasons for not considering some roads that would otherwise be eligible--construction along the Dulles Toll Road and the Beltway; I-66 east of Fair Oaks being a rotten road; I-395 having too many exits crammed too close together; I-81 in Roanoke being congested coupled with left-hand exits and entrances; I-64 over Afton Mountain being a bit twisty and prone to fog problems; I-77 through the tunnel to West Virginia.

Still, this is progress for a state that has been very slow to enter the 20th century with respect to highway speed limits.

Posted by: 1995hoo | October 20, 2010 11:00 AM | Report abuse

PS: I also agree with the 11 mph difference between the speed limit and reckless driving. If you're going to have higher speed limits, then the police need some teeth to enforce them.

Posted by: WashingtonDame | October 20, 2010 11:01 AM | Report abuse

"I remember back in the day when it was considered patriotic to have lower speed limits because it reduced our dependency on foreign oil. I guess McDonnell and his GOP crew don't care about that stuff.

Posted by: hohandy1 | October 20, 2010 10:59 AM | Report abuse"

The old 55 mpg as the "most fuel efficient speed" is a myth. It was simply based on averages. The most fuel efficient speed is when the car is stays at 2000 rpm in its top gear. So, it depends on the car, the driver, and the conditions.

Posted by: WashingtonDame | October 20, 2010 11:40 AM | Report abuse

"The old 55 mp[h] as the 'most fuel efficient speed' is a myth. It was simply based on averages. The most fuel efficient speed is when the car is stays at 2000 rpm in its top gear. So, it depends on the car, the driver, and the conditions."

Yup. For me that means around 65 mph (the lowest speed at which I can reasonably shift to 6th gear). It's not unreasonable to note that cars today are a lot more efficient than they were back in 1974 and are much better-designed in terms of aerodynamics, transmissions, etc. There's no rational reason for anyone to assume that just because on average 55 may have been the point of maximum efficiency way back then it's still the case today.

When Texas posted large portions of I-10 and I-20 at 80 mph a few years back, some people hauled out the tired old gripe about "wasting gas." The state DOT said, quite sensibly in my view, "80 mph is a perfectly safe speed limit on these roads and nobody is forcing anyone to drive that fast. If people want to spend more of their money on gas for their cars, that's their prerogative."

Posted by: 1995hoo | October 20, 2010 12:11 PM | Report abuse

"The law also reduced 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. Virginia law defines any driver going 81 mph or more as reckless."

BTW, the above-quoted paragraph probably merits clarification. The law didn't "reduce" the reckless threshold in a direct fashion. Rather, what happened was that the existing reckless driving law was not amended when the 70-mph speed limit was expanded (previously, 70 mph was authorized only on I-85). The reckless driving law continues to provide that 20 mph over the posted speed limit, or any speed over 80 mph regardless of the posted limit, may be ticketed as reckless driving. This was already the law, but because we only had about 60 miles of road posted at 70 mph in Virginia, the practical effect was that the law was that 20 over could get you a reckless unless the speed limit was 65, in which case 16 over could get you a reckless. By amending the speed limit law without amending the reckless law, the statute now snares someone going 11 over in a 70 zone, but it does not change the threshold on roads with speed limits lower than 70 mph.

I think allowing a reckless simply for going 11 mph over the speed limit, without more, is a bit of a "gotcha" law. Recklessness as a legal concept involves conscious disregard of how one's actions present an imminent danger to oneself or others. I find it hard to accept the argument that merely going 11 mph over the posted speed limit is "reckless" absent some other aggravating circumstances (e.g., weaving in and out of traffic; tailgating; bad weather; work zone; etc.). On the other hand, I also have no problem envisioning situations where going LESS than the posted speed limit might constitute reckless driving (e.g., driving faster than everyone else in a heavy rainstorm without using your headlights). The other thing about 11 over is that generally drivers are accorded a bit of tolerance on speeding in recognition that many, perhaps most, cars' speedometers are a little bit inaccurate (many read 3-4 mph slow or 3-4 mph fast), but it's cost-ineffective to require people to repair them. A driver whose speedometer says he's going 77 when he's in fact going 81 would now potentially face a reckless. I know some people would say, "Well, he was speeding!" But does anyone really think it's reasonable to sock someone with the more severe reckless driving charge when the person reasonably thought he was only doing about 7 mph over the speed limit (assuming, for discussion's sake, that no aggravating circumstances existed)? I sure don't.

Posted by: 1995hoo | October 20, 2010 12:56 PM | Report abuse

@1995hoo
I agree that the Greenway should go up to 70. I'm not sure I'm on board with 66 West because traffic patterns are so variable. You really don't want people hauling along at 70-80 and having to come to a complete stop which does happen on that stretch. Maybe roads like 66, 267, and 28 could have variable speed limits like we have on the Beltway between Springfield and the Wilson Bridge. They could be 65 during light conditions and 55 during heavier conditions.

Posted by: slar | October 20, 2010 12:58 PM | Report abuse

I-66 inside the Beltway needs to be 65

Posted by: sigmagrrl | October 20, 2010 2:51 PM | Report abuse

".... Maybe roads like 66, 267, and 28 could have variable speed limits like we have on the Beltway between Springfield and the Wilson Bridge. They could be 65 during light conditions and 55 during heavier conditions."

That should be "HAD on the Beltway"--they did away with the variable speed limit project a year or so ago. I believe funding ran out. It seems like a sensible idea to me as long as it's run honestly--that is, most of us of a certain age can easily picture Rosco P. Coltrane flipping a number on the speed limit sign just before someone passed it. Of course, the vast majority of people ignored the variable limits on the Beltway.

The thing about a variable limit is that, in theory, if it's properly administered, the posting of a lower limit should serve as a warning to regular users of a given road that something's wrong up ahead. That is--almost everyone has seen the variable speed limit signs on the New Jersey Turnpike. They're in terrible shape and they need to be replaced, but anyway, normally they show 65 mph for the entire Turnpike south of Exit 13. If the signs say 45 mph, it's usually a sign of an accident or something and a lot of people back off the accelerator because they expect to grind to a halt up ahead. Makes a lot of sense to me.

The real problem is that because for so many years so many speed limits have been set at unreasonably low levels, people have become conditioned to ignoring them and driving at reasonable speeds. Any sort of variable speed limit project needs to be coupled to REALISTIC prevailing limits. Otherwise, people will tune out the signs because they bear no relation to reality.

Posted by: 1995hoo | October 20, 2010 3:29 PM | Report abuse

We live in one of the most congested cities in America. The speed limit should not be increased in Northern Virginia. And I don't know of any urban area that has a speed limit of 65. I-66 inside of the beltway first off is usually completely stopped and there is way too much merging traffic on a two lane road for a 65 mph speed limit. You must be on crack.

Posted by: vance1167 | October 20, 2010 3:35 PM | Report abuse

And I don't know of any urban area that has a speed limit of 65.
-----------
Out west and down south, plenty of urban areas do. I-40 through most of the Raleigh-Durham area is 65. Many heavily traveled California freeways are 65. A limit of 55 is only imposed on the worst downtown stretches of interstate, not fringe suburban interstates.

In Michigan, part of I-75 has a 70 MPH speed limit within Detroit city limits.

Posted by: thetan | October 20, 2010 4:03 PM | Report abuse

I hope the speed limit through Emporia, VA increases to 70. The speed limit in NC just over the line is 70, and woe be unto you if you're coming north on 95 and don't back off to 65. The local yokels in Emporia are sitting there waiting for you, and they'll ticket you for going ONE mile over. Actually, they'll ticket you for going exactly the speed limit if they're in a bad mood. 70 through Emporia is a good idea..... get OUT of that dump as fast as possible.

Posted by: Fairfaxresident3 | October 20, 2010 4:16 PM | Report abuse

It's FAUQUIER County. Please spell local place names correctly. Thank you.

Posted by: sarbrown | October 20, 2010 4:21 PM | Report abuse

thetan mentions a few urban Interstates posted at 65 mph. One can look closer to home to find one: The express lanes on Shirley Highway (I-95/I-395 in Virginia) carry a 65-mph speed limit all the way to the Pentagon. They're eligible for the 70-mph limit under the statute as written, but it sounds like it won't happen. Posting a higher speed limit in the express lanes than is posted in the local lanes seems perfectly logical to me given the greatly-reduced number of access points.

I think it will be interesting to see what speed limit is posted on the Beltway HOT lanes when they're completed. One of the rationales that was given for allowing 65-mph limits on the Dulles Greenway and the Pocahontas Parkway some years back (when those roads would not otherwise have been eligible) was that the higher limit might encourage drivers to use those roads, both of which are toll roads. The Beltway HOT lanes will have fewer on- and off-ramps than the regular lanes and, in theory, should have less traffic. They strike me as an ideal place for a variable speed limit going as high as 65 mph.

To address the comment about I-66 inside the Beltway, though--the construction on that road would render a higher speed limit inappropriate right now. There's widening going on between Fairfax Drive and Sycamore Street, Metrorail construction at the Dulles exit, and a total rebuild at the interchange with the Beltway. With that said, I do think 65 mph is a reasonable speed on most of the Interstates in the DC area, and in fact I try to use my cruise control (when feasible) simply to prevent myself from going faster than that on roads like the Beltway. I find the argument that it's "unsafe" to exceed 55 mph on the DC-area Interstates to be a ludicrous argument when the vast majority of two-lane roads (meaning one lane in each direction where you pass over the center line when the dashed line is on your side) in the Commonwealth bear that same 55-mph limit. Nobody can convince me that it's not safe to go faster on an Interstate than it is on most two-lane roads.

Posted by: 1995hoo | October 20, 2010 4:25 PM | Report abuse

The speed limit was 70 when I was a kid growing up in Falls Church. Why did we ever lower it? Stupid.

Posted by: sanibelmiss | October 20, 2010 4:30 PM | Report abuse

"I hope the speed limit through Emporia, VA[,] increases to 70."

Click on the .PDF link in the original entry. The map there shows that entire stretch of I-95 from the state line north to somewhere near the southern end of I-295 as getting the higher limit.

Posted by: 1995hoo | October 20, 2010 4:33 PM | Report abuse

Oh, cool, I-81 goes to 70mph -- all the better for more and more juicy wrecks down there in speeding-semi alley. What are they thinking?

Posted by: Nancilee | October 20, 2010 4:33 PM | Report abuse

The article isn't clear about the 11mph margin - whether it applies to all speed limits or just to the higher 70MPH limit.

It's interesting to see all the complaints about 70mph and references to "the Beltway," inside the beltway" and "urban areas." I don't see any mention of 70mph in these areas.

Posted by: AnxiousMom | October 20, 2010 4:38 PM | Report abuse

The article isn't clear whether the 11 mph margin applies to all speed limits or just the new 70 mph limit.
It's interesting to see all the complaints about the 70 mph limit with references to "inside the beltway," "the beltway" and urban areas." This speed limit won't apply to any of these areas.

Posted by: AnxiousMom | October 20, 2010 4:42 PM | Report abuse

"The article isn't clear about the 11mph margin - whether it applies to all speed limits or just to the higher 70MPH limit."

Correct. The blog entry is not well-written as to that point. See my prior comment above. The reckless driving law remains the same as it always has: 20 over OR in excess of 80 mph is grounds for a reckless. The law doesn't say 11 mph over the speed limit is reckless. Rather, because it says that anything over 80 mph is grounds for a reckless, the practical effect is that 11 mph over the limit in a 70-mph zone can get you a reckless.


"It's interesting to see all the complaints about 70mph and references to 'the Beltway,' 'inside the beltway[,]' and 'urban areas.' I don't see any mention of 70mph in these areas."

Correct, but one of the points several of us are making is that more roads should be posted at 70 mph than the ones VDOT chose. The statute (Va Code 46.2-870) allows ALL Interstates to be posted at 70 mph, as well as all "Interstate look-alikes" and all barrier-separated HOV lanes (this last being a distinction without a difference at the present time, since both barrier-separated HOV facilities are on Interstates, I-95/395 in Northern Virginia and I-64 in Hampton Roads). Notably, the statute does not REQUIRE that any road be posted at 70 mph until after an analysis of traffic studies and accident data. But it appears that VDOT is refusing even to conduct such studies on urban highways. That makes eminent sense on roads like the Beltway with its mess of construction and I-395 with its plethora of poorly-designed interchanges, but it doesn't make a lot of sense on roads like the Dulles Greenway or the Shirley Highway express lanes.

Posted by: 1995hoo | October 20, 2010 4:46 PM | Report abuse

Is it just me -- or is it a fact that the "law" allows hillbillies, rubes, moonshine-guzzlers and other dumb'uns in rural and mountainous climes to drive faster than their more mature, educated urban [urbane?] cousins?

Posted by: kinkysr | October 20, 2010 4:47 PM | Report abuse

I've driven I-81 regularly for years. Increasing the limit to 70mph is only making legal what has been going on for years.

I-81 is littered with wrecks due to the high volume of truck traffic. This will likely increase the propensity for wrecks on I-81 because most trucks (or truck drivers) can't control their vehicles on I-81 given the high traffic load. A better alternative would have been to increase the speed for cars, but not trucks. Hopefully someone doesn't have to die for the state to realize this.

Posted by: SavedByZero | October 20, 2010 5:06 PM | Report abuse

The average speed on the beltway is 84 mph. That means a helluva lot of people are driving MUCH faster already. Once on our way to DC on the weekend we were griped at by a motorcycle cop- we were doing 55 in the left lane but we were stuck behind a van doing the same. 55 was the speed limit, but it was clearly holding things up doing it, and dangerously so. The officer pulled over the van and I can only imagine it was to give him an earful about disrupting the flow of traffic. All you "personal speed control devices" who refuse to go with the flow are more of a danger than someone staying in their own lane driving 80. I commuted from Fburg to Arlington daily, and anyone doing LESS than 70 in the center lane holds things up. Just the way it is. Want to drive 55? Stay on Rt 1 and stay out of our way. And since when is the interstate "suburban" or "urban"? It's a freaking 6 lane separated highway, it's not as if there's a sidewalk on the shoulder. Besides, it's not**really** speed that kills, it's stupid people that kill. Give the stupid, slow, impaired, texting, distracted and scared the far right lane and let the rest of us get where we're going.

Posted by: bigpaws12 | October 20, 2010 5:07 PM | Report abuse

The average speed on the beltway is 84 mph. That means a helluva lot of people are driving MUCH faster already. Once on our way to DC on the weekend we were griped at by a motorcycle cop- we were doing 55 in the left lane but we were stuck behind a van doing the same. 55 was the speed limit, but it was clearly holding things up doing it, and dangerously so. The officer pulled over the van and I can only imagine it was to give him an earful about disrupting the flow of traffic. All you "personal speed control devices" who refuse to go with the flow are more of a danger than someone staying in their own lane driving 80. I commuted from Fburg to Arlington daily, and anyone doing LESS than 70 in the center lane holds things up. Just the way it is. Want to drive 55? Stay on Rt 1 and stay out of our way. And since when is the interstate "suburban" or "urban"? It's a freaking 6 lane separated highway, it's not as if there's a sidewalk on the shoulder. Besides, it's not**really** speed that kills, it's stupid people that kill. Give the stupid, slow, impaired, texting, distracted and scared the far right lane and let the rest of us get where we're going.

Posted by: bigpaws12 | October 20, 2010 5:08 PM | Report abuse

"A better alternative would have been to increase the speed for cars, but not trucks. Hopefully someone doesn't have to die for the state to realize this."

Highway engineers will almost uniformly tell you that split speed limits of that sort are among the WORST things you can have. Virginia used to have split speed limits--when the 65-mph limit was re-enacted in the late 1980s, it applied only to cars; buses and trucks were limited to 55 mph. That was later abolished because the speed variance caused by split speed limits is more dangerous than having the majority of the traffic moving at a higher speed. That is--consider how someone going at 55 mph when the prevailing speed of traffic is 65 mph becomes a moving roadblock. It promotes lane-changes, tailgating, and what I call the "Grandpa cruise control pass" where you have a truck in the right lane going 60 mph and Grandpa comes up with his cruise control set at 63, moves out to pass, and doesn't speed up. Traffic stacks up in both lanes as people get angrier and angrier about the slowpokes.

This is the same reason why the "85th percentile rule" is considered the best method for setting speed limits. (Do a Google search for that phrase and you'll find ample information.) There are all sorts of political reasons why Virginia won't go with the 85th percentile rule, but there are a lot of very sound safety reasons why they did away with the lower speed limit for trucks and why they aren't going to reinstate it now.

Posted by: 1995hoo | October 20, 2010 5:23 PM | Report abuse

It all sounds like more of a racket to me. Increasing the limit to 70 and lowering the range to reckless seems like entrapment. Keeping the reckless driving at 81 mph (when most modern vehicles can do 80 very safely) is just another way for the government to extract more revenue from the people.

Posted by: richyancy | October 20, 2010 5:24 PM | Report abuse

The highways are getting more dangerous by the day. 70 mph will translate to 80 mph as drivers "push the envelope"- I expect more damaging accidents - If you aren't in a heavy vehicle, you won't feel secure on that I 295 stretch by Richmond. It was lawless the last time I drove it, with no state highway police in sight and trucks recklessly speeding.

Posted by: taylordr | October 20, 2010 5:33 PM | Report abuse

The higher speed limits are great for people like me who like to drive fast, but higher limits don't address the hazard posed by drivers who go too slow in the passing lane. The police need to be much more aggressive about enforcing minimum speed limits and in getting the slow pokes out of the fast lanes.

Posted by: BertofOldTownAlexandria | October 20, 2010 5:38 PM | Report abuse

"State officials said in a statement that the change should help shortern commute times and allow traffic 'to move at a more consistent speed.'"

This is hogwash. It's McD's pitiful excuse for not raising more funds for widening highways and buidling more roads. There are very few places in Va., except for I-85 to the NC border, where you can actually go 70. Otherwise, in the most popular times to drive, you can't hit 70 because of the traffic.

Posted by: bob16 | October 20, 2010 6:05 PM | Report abuse

If you regularly drive on I-66 you already know that almost every driver drives at 70mph. All they are doing is making legal what almost all people are doing already. Drive 65mph on I-66 and you will be tailgated and passed by just about everyone. If you do not want to drive 70mph then drive 65mph. Don't try and put your limitations on the rest of us. Better yet, take the back roads and stay off the interstate.

Posted by: rabauser | October 20, 2010 6:16 PM | Report abuse

Finally, a reason to cheer for Virginia. I haven't had one in a long time.

Posted by: FrankIBC | October 20, 2010 6:26 PM | Report abuse

I recall the Governor floating this idea. When I am at a standstill or moving at 20mph on 95, I think to myself: “Imagine how fast we would be going if the speed limit was 70mph.”
Still 20mph.
The congestion will just move like a wave. And, the increased limit will cause a bigger differential in speed between vehicles. This is a recipe for increased accidents. The basis for which areas to increase the speed limits or not will all change.
This is an awful plan.

Posted by: wsessums | October 20, 2010 6:32 PM | Report abuse

I am greatly enjoying watching advocates of the Nanny State (tm) make their emotional plea to protect us against ourselves.

Thank you for your 5 minutes of entertainment.

Posted by: Skeptic1 | October 20, 2010 6:37 PM | Report abuse

Good grief, 70 MPH for all those huge 18-wheelers on I-81!!??? Most of them already have been going at least that fast. That road is just 2 lanes in each direction for most of the way. It has always been Fearful Alley for us little-car drivers, now it can only be worse. No thank you, some of us just won't go there.

Posted by: PointORocks | October 20, 2010 6:58 PM | Report abuse

May as well raise it on all the Northern Virginia roads to 70mph since most of the Maryland drivers like on Route 15 and Route 28 do 75mph anyways.

Posted by: hogfarmer55 | October 20, 2010 7:44 PM | Report abuse

Detroit and Raleigh/Durham may have 65 mph speed limits but they are a lot less populated and they're highways are a lot wider than I-66 inside the beltway. 65mph might be a good idea outside the beltway, but definitely not inside the beltway.

Atlanta, which is a city of much comparable size and traffic, has a speed limit of 55 on I-75, I-85, and I-20 within 10 miles of downtown.

Posted by: vance1167 | October 20, 2010 7:46 PM | Report abuse

Doesn't anyone take the time to reason these out before making snap decisions? The average trip on I-275 must be less than 15 miles, therefore, raising the speed limit by 5 miles per hour will, whoopee, reduce the time of an average trip by three minutes. I-275 on weekends during the summer is usually too crowded to safely support higher speeds. Throw in a few inebriated individuals returning from the beach and you have a recipe for trouble. When summer returns and you decide this was a bad idea, just enforce the speed limits with photo radar.

Posted by: leberk | October 20, 2010 7:46 PM | Report abuse

Certainly all the great drivers out there can handle speeds much higher than even the increased limit, right up until the moment they can't (otherwise known as the "oh, sh*t" moment).

Posted by: vmax02rider | October 20, 2010 7:49 PM | Report abuse

"The speed limit was 70 when I was a kid growing up in Falls Church. Why did we ever lower it? Stupid."

Its the traffic ------.

Posted by: leberk | October 20, 2010 7:54 PM | Report abuse

"Certainly all the great drivers out there can handle speeds much higher than even the increased limit, right up until the moment they can't (otherwise known as the "oh, sh*t" moment)."

Great comment. In 60 years of driving I've had a few, but with no chargeable accidents I learned early-on to "Expect the unexpected"

Posted by: leberk | October 20, 2010 7:57 PM | Report abuse

"It all sounds like more of a racket to me. Increasing the limit to 70 and lowering the range to reckless seems like entrapment. Keeping the reckless driving at 81 mph (when most modern vehicles can do 80 very safely) is just another way for the government to extract more revenue from the people."

I suspect most people who think they can regularly drive 80 mph "off the race track", are no longer with us. Have you ever had to make an emergency stop while going 80, and survived the experience without an accident "inside" the car?

Posted by: leberk | October 20, 2010 8:07 PM | Report abuse

Go autobahn.....on 236...

Posted by: DJ18 | October 20, 2010 8:12 PM | Report abuse

Another excellent reason to stay off I-81.

Posted by: LurayDemocrat | October 20, 2010 8:42 PM | Report abuse

The Interstate system before 1973 embargo was designed for 85 mph and most states had a 75mph limit. The 55, then 65 limit was kept there for these many years after the supposedly fuel efficient double nickel was instituted, I speculate mostly to allow State troopers to fill their coffers by waylaying American citizens and saying "Stand and Deliver." If you drove the section of I-95 from about miles north of the NC border (75 mph speed limit), the I-81 from about 10 miles above the Tenn border, or I-64 coming up from Hampton Roads (lots of military to hijack), you'd see the speed traps.

At least this is a step in the right direction of getting the government off the backs of citizens.

Posted by: wjc1va | October 20, 2010 8:53 PM | Report abuse

This seems entirely ridiculous to me. What about safety? It's like giving permission to those idiots who already drive 80, to drive even faster. On top of that, if I don't want to drive 70, then I am going to be the "old fart" in the slow lane holding everyone else up. I guess we'll have to see how many additional highway deaths this well-thought out policy yields.

Posted by: love2bmom | October 20, 2010 9:11 PM | Report abuse

OK for Georgia and some of these other flat states with lots of open road and a lot less traffic but too dangerous for Virginia! It makes driving to FL easier but when you think about it, wrecks are a LOT worse when people are going that fast. 65 is fast enough for VA!

Posted by: SusanMarie2 | October 20, 2010 9:29 PM | Report abuse

A game I play to pass the time on the interstates, especially I-81, is to count the truck to car ratio. Here's how it works: watch traffic in the opposite direction and count the number of cars. When you see a truck, say "truck" and start the count over. You'll find yourself regularly saying "truck" several times in a row, and your car count will rarely get above 5.

Now, I-81 is a major trucking route, so this is hardly surprising. But, I'm not sure which is worse: getting passed by a truck doing 80+ or getting stuck behind a line of trucks playing the slowest game of leap-frog in the world.

What I'd like to see is more of that trucking freight placed on trains that can move it far more efficiently. I think building a freight rail line down the I-81 corridor would be an excellent use of the stimulus money. No, it won't kill trucking jobs. Some will be converted to rail jobs and the rest will shift from long-haul to medium & short-haul, localized around freight rail depots.

Posted by: wpjf | October 21, 2010 12:28 AM | Report abuse

I really enjoy all the chicken littles in this thread who think the sky is falling because they're raising the speed limit a whole 5mph. As if anyone currently goes 65 on the roads posted at 65? (You rolling-roadblock "YOU SHALL NOT PASS!" fans aside.)

Guess what? 81mph is, and always will be, reckless driving in the commonwealth. You could never do the "65+20" part of the statute because that was 85, obviously over 81. So this changes nothing. It's not like they're considering jumping the limits from 55 to 70.

And, incidentally, if you cannot handle your vehicle at 70, or 75, or even the occasional 80 (posted limit in some parts of Texas and Montana), you don't belong on the interstate in the first place. Although you might want to put down the damn phone and pay attention to your driving!

Posted by: nocando | October 21, 2010 9:20 AM | Report abuse

it should go even higher. the sooner I make it thru virginia the better.

Posted by: MarilynManson | October 21, 2010 10:47 AM | Report abuse

And I don't know of any urban area that has a speed limit of 65.
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Out west and down south, plenty of urban areas do. I-40 through most of the Raleigh-Durham area is 65. Many heavily traveled California freeways are 65. A limit of 55 is only imposed on the worst downtown stretches of interstate, not fringe suburban interstates.

In Michigan, part of I-75 has a 70 MPH speed limit within Detroit city limits.

Posted by: thetan |
--------------------------------

Correct on all counts. And you can add Orlando and Atlanta to the list.

Additionally, many cities also post a MINIMUM speed requirement of 40mph which keeps traffic moving.

Much of the reason for stopped traffic on our highways is the idiotic rubbernecking and multi-tasking peoplke here insist on doing while driving. Get a little rain and manyt people refuse to drive faster than 20mph.

Then again, other cities have more highway capacity than we do, because unlike this region, they had the sense to build out their highway networks as planned instead of listening to a bunch of idiots who thought we were running out of oil within a month and believed building Metro made highways unnecessary.


Posted by: ceefer66 | October 21, 2010 10:57 AM | Report abuse

Maybe a Marylander can answer this question: what is the speed limit in the shoulder?

Posted by: getjiggly1 | October 21, 2010 12:09 PM | Report abuse

Sorry but I don't agree with raising the speed limit in VA. Just gives people an excuse to drive faster, and when it rains, snows, or even when the dang sun is shinging, most people here can't drive. There are more accidents in the stretch of I95 than in LA.county California. Really bad idea.

Posted by: kat-n-rob | October 26, 2010 7:12 AM | Report abuse

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