FREDERICKSBURG, Va. (WRIC) — New LED speed limit signs have been installed on Interstate 95 northbound. Come Wednesday they will be able to adjust the speed limit in real-time in an attempt to keep travelers safe on a notorious stretch of road.

A total of 48 variable speed signs were installed on Thursday, June 16, over a 15-mile section between Ladysmith and Fredericksburg.

For the time being, the variable speed signs will only display the maximum speed limit — either 65 mph or 70 mph — in order for drivers to become used to their presence. But on Wednesday, June 22, the variable speed limit system will be activated, allowing speed limit changes to range from 35 mph to 70 mph.

The adjustable speed limit will allow drivers to change their speed based on real-time traffic conditions. If traffic slows and approaches congestion, for example, the slowing of the speed limit is expected to reduce the risk of crashes and stop-and-go backups.

“When we studied the I-95 corridor to identify areas for operational improvements, we found recurring congestion was contributing to crashes and driver delay at this location, especially on weekends and during holidays,” said Mena Lockwood, P.E., assistant state traffic engineer for the Virginia Department of Transportation (VDOT). “By installing this variable speed limit system here, we can lower vehicle speeds before travelers reach the point of congestion. This reduces the risk of crashes and resulting injuries, and it maximizes our ability to keep traffic moving.”

How the system works

Vehicle detectors along I-95 will gather data which will be fed into an algorithm that will decide whether or not the speed limits need to be adjusted. According to VDOT, these vehicle detectors do not identify individual vehicles or gather license plate information.

Flashing beacons attached to the signs will activate when speed limits are reduced. These limits will only be reduced by 10 mph at a time, and will hold that speed for at least a minute. When congestion clears, the limits will directly return to the maximum allowable speed limit.

Message boards controlled by operators in VDOT’s Traffic Operations Centers will also communicate additional information such as the reason for the speed limits being lowered. Six new 511Virginia traffic cameras will be installed in the corridor by summer 2022 as part of this project, which will assist with traffic monitoring.

There will be up to 24 hours of backup power should there be a power loss to the region. If any part of the system experiences a failure, VDOT will deploy an on-call maintenance contractor to repair it within eight hours.

Learn More

VDOT already has other variable speed limit systems on Interstate 77 at Fancy Gap in Carroll County, as well as on the approaches and in the Hampton Roads Bridge-Tunnel and on the Monitor-Merrimac Memorial Bridge-Tunnel.

The $10 million project on I-95 northbound is being funded through the I-95 Corridor Improvement Program and the Innovation and Technology Transportation Fund.

Visit the I-95 Northbound Variable Speed Limit project page to learn more.