ODOT wants OK to change highway speed limits depending on weather, traffic

The Ohio Department of Transportation has the authority to impose variable speed limits on a handful of interstate stretches, based on road conditions, but now it wants permission to change speed limits anytime statewide.

For example, ODOT can drop the speed limit during snow storms that hit I-90 east of Cleveland or when traffic is heavy on I-670 in Columbus.

ODOT Director Jack Marchbanks is asking lawmakers for authority to apply variable speed limits across the state.

“What we’re talking about is applying it where we have construction projects and we have also known safety issues such as white-outs or other issues impacting traffic, impacting safety of our traveling motorists,” he said.

This would mean electronic speed limit signs on Ohio highways that could be changed depending on conditions. For example, during a winter storm, the speed limit on I-75 could lower from 65 to 55 miles per hour then go back to 65 when weather returns to normal.

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When asked if ODOT is interested in raising highway speed limits, Marchbanks said “No. People are driving too fast already.”

Marchbanks, a Dayton native, holds a doctorate in American History from Ohio University and a bachelor’s degree in political science from University of Dayton.

Lawmakers OK’d a test of variable speed limits starting in 2018 on I-670 in Columbus.

Current law only allows speed limits to be temporarily lowered in school zones and work zones.

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