Some Ohioans are closer to seeing speed limits change daily or even hourly on some roadways after the Ohio House voted on a transportation budget Wednesday that includes the change.
Ohio Gov. John Kasich believes if people would just go slower in heavy traffic they’d get to where they’re going faster.
Kasich is asking the Ohio Legislature to permit variable speed limits that change based on how congested the roadway is.
If legislators allow it the program would be piloted as early as summer 2018 on I-670 in Columbus. If successful, it could expand. The measure now heads to the state Senate.
“We know that one of the most common causes of congestion is frequent start and stop,” said Matt Bruning, spokesman for the Ohio Department of Transportation. “If we can get everybody to slow down to a common speed the throughput of traffic goes more smoothly.”
Currently the limit on the proposed test section of I-670 East from downtown to the Columbus Airport ranges from 55 mph downtown to 65 mph in the outer belt area. It would be reduced to 45 westbound in the morning and eastbound in the evening during heaviest traffic periods, Bruning said.
“People (may) say, ‘I don’t understand why they’ve lowered the speed limit at rush hour. I want to drive 60.’ But the fact is you cannot drive 60 in rush hour,” Bruning said. “We feel, and research proves, that if you lower the speed limit to even 45 everybody gets where they need to go faster because you reduce the stop, start, stop, start.”
ODOT also is proposing that one shoulder of the highway be opened up when congestion is heavy. Bruning said the left shoulder would be kept clear of debris to allow motorists to drive on it. The right shoulder would remain off limits to drivers except for emergency vehicles.
Overhead gantries and digital speed limit signs that could be remotely changed would be installed on I-670 so motorists know when they must adhere to lower limits.
Current law only allows speed limits to be temporarily lowered in school zones and work zones.