Atlanta turns to variable speed limit system to relieve highway congestion
Atlanta ranked as the 11th worst traffic city in North America, according to one study.
September 24th, 2012
02:31 PM ET

Atlanta turns to variable speed limit system to relieve highway congestion

Transportation planners in Atlanta, ranked 11th in North America for worst city traffic, are reaching into their bag of tricks for a way to control driving speeds based on real-time conditions.

The Georgia Department of Transportation will be installing new electronic variable speed limit signs along the northern half of Interstate 285. The speed limits will range between 45 mph and 65 mph, and they will fluctuate depending on traffic volume and weather conditions.

"We have been considering this legislation for about three years," said Georgia DOT Commissioner Keith Golden. "We want to give drivers a speed limit that they'll be more compliant to."

According The Atlanta Journal-Constitution, the idea is to reduce stop-and-go driving and discourage frequent lane changes.

The whole system will be a relative easy project to set up, according to Golden. Work on the installation of the electronic signs is set to begin next month, and the system should be up and running by next summer.

“You’re able to move more traffic through with the variable sign system," Golden said.

Atlanta ranked as 11th worst traffic city (PDF)

Georgia isn't alone in this way of thinking. Washington, Virginia, Wyoming and other states have implemented a variable speed limit system along their highways.

According to a study by the Wyoming Department of Transportation, DOT officials from those states contend the system is working. Pat Persson, a district engineer in Wyoming, said the public reaction in general has been "very positive about these variable speed limits."

Traffic seems to be a concern for a lot of states. This month, the Texas Department of Transportation approved an increase in the speed limit on Texas State Highway 130 to a record 85 mph. The reasoning is the same as for Georgia - to help move traffic more efficiently.

According to Golden, there isn't necessarily a time frame for success for the Georgia project; however, if it manages to help congestion, then expect other highways in the Atlanta area, such as I-85, to receive the system as well.

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Filed under: Georgia • Wyoming
soundoff (163 Responses)
  1. nugun

    Congratulations on implementing an idea I've been espousing since high school....20 years ago.

    September 24, 2012 at 7:52 pm | Report abuse |
    • allenwoll

      This idea is NOT practical and will nOT, can NOT work ! ! !

      September 24, 2012 at 8:10 pm | Report abuse |
    • MACTSW

      Wow! This only been in use in Europe for a decade: way to innovate.

      September 24, 2012 at 8:10 pm | Report abuse |
  2. Joe

    Laugh laugh, it won't work. Just another boondoggle experiment with taxpayers footing the bill for the research. Cut down on lane changing no way, Slow down drivers no way. Look at construction zones with reduced speed limits and does anyone slow down to the posted limit, heck no, Does anyone stay in one lane, heck no, they migrate to any lane thats moving or moving faster. It's just tax money waste at its worst..........

    September 24, 2012 at 7:54 pm | Report abuse |
    • seattledude

      Agreed. It's a terrible waste of money. We have it here in Seattle, and often the signs don't keep up with traffic, which btw naturally slows by itself. It's just a big frustrating way to waste more of our money during an economic downturn. Love how the article says people like it. No one I know thinks it works -just causes frustration and a lot more people breaking the speed limit.

      September 24, 2012 at 8:15 pm | Report abuse |
    • Smith

      Yeah, let's not even try. I think that's a great idea. I mean, no way this country was built on the greatness of ideas, experimentation, and innovation.

      September 24, 2012 at 8:20 pm | Report abuse |
    • E Cartman

      Yeah, I gotta agree. It's a big conspiracy designed to swindle the tax payers out of more money. Because that all makes perfect sense and is completely logical. I've been complaining for years about the crooked DOT. It's probably Obama's fault too and only Romney can fix it, right?
      You people gotta relax, and stop thinking the government is out to get you every chance they get. If you read the article it says that this has been successfully implemented in other cities, it works, and the research has already been done. But if you have a problem with the DOT trying to make our roads more efficient, less congested, and safer, then don't use them. Stay in your house and complain about the government from the safety of your home.

      September 24, 2012 at 8:41 pm | Report abuse |
  3. Don

    wow 85 in Texas.....pretty soon a 100 mph police chase will be like a cruise down the road.

    September 24, 2012 at 7:56 pm | Report abuse |
  4. John

    very feeble . . . the majority of voters in Atlanta and surrounding area will never vote to fund things like mass transit (likely the only solution at this point if you have ever lived in or worked in Atlanta).

    September 24, 2012 at 8:02 pm | Report abuse |
    • MoodyMoody

      They might, just might, if gasoline reaches $20/gallon in the next couple of years. I doubt it gets THAT expensive so soon.

      September 24, 2012 at 10:26 pm | Report abuse |
  5. Steve

    I am from Southern California and people need to stay in their lanes! It seems to be the cause of most traffic and accidents that I have seen. Passing in the slow lane is just asking for it! People driving 55 in the fast lane are asking for it as well. Here in socal you have a better chance of getting taken out on the freeway than you do in Iraq or Afghanistan!

    September 24, 2012 at 8:02 pm | Report abuse |
  6. Jim DeLapp

    It will be worse for accidents cuz alot of people changing lanes will not know how to merge into the faster lane. They can't visual;y judge how fast someone from behind is coming ie they will drop into 70mph lane at 50 and cause a wreck.

    September 24, 2012 at 8:04 pm | Report abuse |
  7. allenwoll

    This WILL NOT, this CAN NOT work. . People are NOT automatons and judge speed poorly even when long accustomed to a given speed.

    The jurisdiction has a right AND a duty to regulate highway speed : So, let them DO it, technically, which is now quite feasible - Of course, the drawback on THAT is that there will be no revenue from FINES. Therefore idea DoA ! ! !

    September 24, 2012 at 8:08 pm | Report abuse |
    • wac

      You crack me up. Variable speed limits are being used in Europe for over a decade. Europe has less congestion and less accidents in urban areas that are significantly denser than American cities. But maybe Europeans just have superior cognitive and hand-eye coordination skills...

      September 24, 2012 at 8:46 pm | Report abuse |
  8. Ari

    Speed limits aren't the problem, people who don't know basic road laws are. My biggest pet peeve is people who cruise in the left lane while a line of traffic builds behind them. Left lane is for passing. If you aren't passing get in the right lane.

    September 24, 2012 at 8:10 pm | Report abuse |
  9. icantdrivee55

    Absolutely going to be a cluster. How can you expect all of the idiots to do this while they are on the phone, texting, shaving, READING?

    September 24, 2012 at 8:18 pm | Report abuse |
  10. FA

    Really is this an idea? “Speed limit will fluctuate depending on traffic volume” This called a law of physics. Which you will not be able to drive 65 MPH in traffic, especially in rush hour, which the maximum speed will reach 5-10 MPH if you lucky. Good Morning America!!

    September 24, 2012 at 8:19 pm | Report abuse |
  11. Shawn

    I am sensing hacking opportunities of epic proportions.

    September 24, 2012 at 8:19 pm | Report abuse |
  12. pwells9816

    We have variable speed limits in the Seattle area, and they are useless and waste of money. They'll say speed limit 60mph, when the fastest you can go is 30mph. And when the sign reads 30mph, everyone is going 60mph. Because they are so wrong most of time, nobody pays any attention to them. But they do look pretty.

    September 24, 2012 at 8:24 pm | Report abuse |
  13. Jeff Frank (R-Ohio) "Right Wing Insanity"

    I went home a couple times from here taking 894 N, that costs $8-11 in tolls going from south end of Chicago to 94 on the north end. 26 miles out of the way in an hour and a half.
    Then if you brave going straight through, then you go Calumet Expy to the Dan Ryan Expy., to the Kennedy Expy, to the Edens Expy. 45 minutes hehe, unless you hit it at four in the afternoon. Then it's 3 1/2 hrs. And the construction? It never ends.

    September 24, 2012 at 8:27 pm | Report abuse |
    • banasy©

      How weird. 94 isn't a toll road.
      Do you mean 294?

      September 24, 2012 at 8:51 pm | Report abuse |
  14. Jeff Frank (R-Ohio) "Right Wing Insanity"

    You can't spell either.

    September 24, 2012 at 8:31 pm | Report abuse |
  15. cja

    This can work if it is implemented correctly. That means there is some human watching the roads 24×7 and adjusting the signs. It can't be pre-programmed. I doubt it can be automated either.

    The problem they are trying to solve is cars going at different speeds on the same road. A lane change is very disruptive and sends ripples backwards. So the idea is to force everyone to drive at the same speed. It they can make that happen it will work. But notice i said "if".

    September 24, 2012 at 8:38 pm | Report abuse |
    • Patrick

      This is Georgia we're talking about here. It will either be tolled or taxed. Either way, it won't be implemented correctly.

      September 24, 2012 at 8:48 pm | Report abuse |
    • Rednip

      Do you see those poles by the side of the highway, the ones with maybe the black domes? They are called cameras and pipe a live video feed to traffic control centers. Also there are variety of sensors that can accurately gauge traffic. I've seen variable speed limit areas for a couple of decades now and they don't ever really lower the speed limit save for fog, snow or heavy rain. Likely this is more about turning a 55 mph stretch into what's usually a 65 mph zone, but being able to lower it easily if weather requires it.

      September 24, 2012 at 10:13 pm | Report abuse |
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