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Wednesday, May 6, 2009

Variable Speed Limits – What’s the deal?

MoDOT is currently in a two-year study on the use and effectiveness of Variable Speed Limits (where traffic engineers raise and lower the speed limits based on how fast traffic is moving). Since the project was implemented in May 2008, the department has surveyed drivers and collected speed data. The media is reporting on preliminary findings of that survey (which include the fact that at this point, law enforcement and drivers are not convinced of its effectiveness).

As one of the people sitting in on developing the criteria for the study, I have to admit that this was completely expected. One of the items I hoped to see as part of the study was a change in public opinion through the two-year project. This is a brand-new idea to the St. Louis area -- using variable speeds to manage the volume of traffic flow through congested areas is completely new, and people don’t like change they don’t completely understand.

This early data from this study helps MoDOT determine what it’s doing correctly and what it isn’t. For instance, one of the big areas that drivers and law enforcement both stress is that they don’t believe the public is as informed as they need to be about how variable speed limits work. That’s a great point, and something that MoDOT (and I) need to look at. So – we have a website that talks about how the project works, we have a flyer that we handed out, and we’ve put spots in the media. What else do you suggest? I’ll consider any reasonable request (especially if it’s cheap (since we are a state agency.))