By on March 11, 2011

The Missouri Department of Transportation (MoDOT) announced Wednesday that it was expanding a system for lowering speed limits on the freeway, despite its own surveys showing the public has a “high level of dissatisfaction with the system.” A study conducted on behalf of MoDOT by the Missouri University of Science and Technology included a few positive statistics about the performance of Variable Speed Limits, but the overall conclusion was that the program failed to provide the promised benefits.

In May 2008, MoDOT installed a Variable Speed Limit system on sections of Interstate 270 and Interstate 255 in St. Louis. Using electronic signs, MoDOT officials lowered the speed limit from 60 MPH to as little as 40 MPH throughout the day in response to changing conditions. The goal was to make traffic speeds more consistent to reduce congestion. In practice, however, the system frequently displayed a low speed limit when the road was clear and the 60 MPH limit in bumper-to-bumper traffic. Big rig trucks driving in the right-hand lane frequently blocked the view of the lowered limit sign, setting up motorists for hefty speeding tickets for driving as much as 20 MPH without their knowledge.

As a result, 79 percent of the public believed the program did nothing to reduce travel times. A full 65 percent want the program eliminated, and 71 percent think the speed limit should be raised to 70 MPH. Police officers in the area were equally unenthusiastic about the project.

“Over three hundred law enforcement officials completed paper surveys,” the study reported. “Law enforcement officers also reported negative responses to the VSL. They do not believe that it has reduced the number of crashes, alleviated stop and go traffic, or reduced congestion. Moreover, they overwhelmingly believe that it has been ineffective in increasing driver compliance with posted speed limits. The vast majority report that it should be eliminated and not considered for expansion.”

MoDOT touted the slight reduction in travel times found in three of the four segments analyzed to declare the program a success. It also cited accident reductions on Interstate 270, even though 69 percent of police officers surveyed thought the program did nothing to improve safety. Beginning in July, MoDOT will use the electronic signs to lower the speed limit down to 10 MPH. The new signs will be “advisory only,” meaning police will not issue citations to anyone driving under 60 MPH.

A copy of the study is available in a 1.6mb PDF file at the source link below.

Source: PDF File Evaluation of Variable Speed Limits on I-270/I-255 (Missouri Department of Transportation, 10/10/2010)

[Courtesy:Thenewspaper.com]

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17 Comments on “Missouri Expands Unpopular Freeway Variable Speed Trap System...”


  • avatar
    jimbowski

    I have traveled 270, and sometimes 370, many times when trying to bypass St. Louis on I-70.  (holidays and family)  I have never seen these variable speed signs change their speed.  The only speed traps I watch for is the 55 mph going over the bridge.

  • avatar
    obbop

    I’m in southwest Missouri and the area is chock-full of what I consider to be mutants, sub-humans.
    Anti-social and uncivil marginally educated and operating at an emotional vice logical/rational basis.
    Stuck in this shanty for another year before I can sell without having to pay the feds their 10-percent of buying price freebie rebate.
    Hoping that shanty sales prices remain steady or perhaps climb!!!!!!!
     
    Paid sub-40K bucks, an abode cohort actually in demand to a certain extent due to affordabilty compared to McMansions, especially.
    Toss in a mere 300 bucks per year for property tax and please please please sell, shanty, when the time arrives!!!!!!!!!!
    Will never return to CA.
    Actively seeking a locale with fewer social negatives.
    Meth (crank) is a wide-spread problem hereabouts along with under-developed brainlets.
    I are serious!!!!!!!!!
    Feel free to offer locale suggestions!!!!!!!
    Age and reaction to cold at ancient age prohibits dwelling in colder sections of USA. Must remain in USA.
    This post started as a general comment about Missouri negatives since the beginning subject matter was about Missouri idiocy (and well-deserved as proven by local phenomenon of civil and governmental actions/inactions.
     
    The “leave a comment” below my message to thee at my blog is a great way to either lambaste, berate or offer ideas, etc to little old me. It will not recede into the past as info left here in this “reply” would.
     
    THANKS in advance.
    Desperate in Missouri!!!!!!!
     
    http://obbop.wordpress.com/

    • 0 avatar
      jimbowski

      How about Johnson County, KS?  Expensive housing, fantastic road conditions.  I recommend the small, rural city of Spring Hill.

    • 0 avatar
      Slow_Joe_Crow

      And this is why we moved from Joplin MO. to Beaverton OR after a year. On moving from the New York City suburbs to deliverance country in search of a lower cost of living “It seemed like a good idea at the time”.

  • avatar
    krhodes1

    Maine does this on the Turnpike (I-95 in Southern Maine), but only during severe weather. From 65 or 55 (urban sections) to 45. They do tend to be a little slow in putting the limit back up when conditions improve, but overall I think they use it appropriately. I have never heard of a cop giving anyone a ticket due to a reduction, but I suppose it happens. Usually if the speed limit is reduced, conditions are bad enough that 45mph is plenty, if not unobtainable.

  • avatar
    tced2

    I’ve always wondered how they “manage” this variable speed limit system.  Ok, you’ve decided to change the display from 60 to 40…what about the driver who is driving 60 just passing the sign that says 60…and then suddenly changes to 40….out of sight of the driver.  I can just hear the arguments about what time the speed limit changed.  It seems like a potential source of arguments in traffic court.

    • 0 avatar
      PeriSoft

      Presumably they’ll delay changing the enforcement amount by some time – say, the average time it takes someone to get from the first notification sign to the next. Theoretically you could still get boned if you stop at a rest stop in the middle, and then continue on at the previous speed – but by that point it’ll probably be fairly obvious if everyone’s going 20mph slower than they were before.
       
      Of course, things are quite often not implemented in the obviously correct way…
       
      The problem with automated enforcement is that it can’t understand fuzzy edges. There’s a bit of road near I live that goes from 55 to 30 in one shot. I had a discussion with some guys on another forum, and they were loudly saying that anyone going double the speed limit should have his car confiscated, since there’s “no way you can be going double the limit without it being incredibly dangerous”.
       
      But on the road near me, there are two 30mph signs before this village, the first one a good quarter mile out. You never get pulled for going 10 over here, and absolutely not for 5 over. So, in theory, you could be going 5 over the limit one moment – perfectly safe according to any measure – and double the speed limit the next; technically you’re suddenly being utterly reckless and should be thrown in jail.
       
      In the real world, a cop is going to look and say, “OK, this guy dropped down to 35 by the second sign that’s still 300 feet from the actual village; it’s not a big deal”. In the automated ticket world, you get your license taken away for going double the speed limit through a village.
       
      Anyway, not really on-topic, but it’s at least vaguely relevant to your post. :)

  • avatar
    fincar1

    With the continual expansion of electronic surveillance systems, we may as well prepare for the day when we get an email on our phone or i-pad or whatever announcing that “Your bank account has been debited for the fine of $amount because you exceeded the variable speed limit on $road at $time for $feet.”

  • avatar
    redliner

    ‘The new signs will be “advisory only,”’

    Yeah, just like the signs you see posted before an offramp or sharp turn. I can almost always safely navigate the turn at twice the posted “advisory” speed, and sometimes even triple the posted speed is possible, although not necessarily safe.

    • 0 avatar
      aspade

      Those misleading advisory signs are a real safety issue.  Sharp turns and blind curves need to be explicitly posted.  With the advisories (and limits in general) dumbed down so much there’s often no way to distinguish a 25 but 45 is easy in a Camry from a 25 means 30 unless you’re in a Miata.
       
      It’s most apparent on the boundaries between incorporated and unincorporated areas.  The same road through the same hills but the minute you’re not keeping their revenues up anymore the signs get honest again.
       

    • 0 avatar
      Advance_92

      If I remember from drivers ed (when signs were expected to be consistent and logical) a yellow caution speed is generally set 20 mph below the safest speed thought appropriate for the turn.  In practice I’ve found this to be pretty true though cautions of 10-15 mph are generally really that slow.
       
      Regardless it’s not a speed limit sign and the last white speed limit sign applies.  Newer school zone signs regularly violate this standard unfortunately.  Old signs with flashing lights had the speed limit marked on a white background which I suppose was too expensive to maintain.

    • 0 avatar

      My rule of thumb is that with dry pavement I can take a curve at 15+ posted in my Subaru, 5-10+ in an SUV and 5-10 below in a loaded commercial vehicle.
      Most of those signs are set for the largest, highest center of gravity most roll-over prone vehicle that will use the road.  The Peterbilt 320 refuse truck, unbaffeled food grade tanker, Sterling with a set of double trailers or Mack R model mixer go through at  to well below the posted speed.  If any of the aforementioned vehicles rolls over it creates a large mess that can take 4-6+ hours to clean up, more if any sort of Hazardous Material is involved.

    • 0 avatar
      Lumbergh21

      Of course, while those yellow advisory signs are just that advisory, a cop could give you a ticket fro reckless driving if you continue at the 55 mph speed limit through that 25 mph curve.  I also agree that sometimes a 15 mph curve is best taken at 25 mph or less (I can think of one where my tires squealed at 20 mph and I nearly slid to a stop), and sometimes I can take a 25 mph curve at 45 or even 50 mph.  It makes no sense.  Maybe I should bring this up with an engineer in our office who used to work for Caltrans to get an answer.

  • avatar
    Robstar

    I know that going around several subdivisions there is a speed limit siggn of “5″ around a turn. Cars & Suv’s usually take it about 30-40. I could probably take it at 50+ in my STi.

    Not sure how they came up with that particular speed since there is no crosswalk there and an open area of grass for several hundred feet on one side and a wall set back from the road on the other.

  • avatar
    Japanese Buick

    The headline for this story is deceptive, it says they are expanding the program implying more tickets will be written, until you get to the very end and learn oh, and by the way the speeds will now only be advisory.  that’s not expanding the program, that’s backing off.
     
    And btw France has sort-of variable speed limits on their freeways, it’s 130k in good weather and 110k in bad weather. I always wondered what the criteria is for determining good vs bad weather for legal purposes. Going by this sign doesn’t really help that much: http://t1.gstatic.com/images?q=tbn:ANd9GcTqyy-XmEB76pXRgKEIX6W7BW-z24Pen1hIcEwIWA5IKUqtkTaI4A

  • avatar
    V572625694

    “As a result, 79 percent of the public believed the program did nothing to reduce travel times. A full 65 percent want the program eliminated, and 71 percent think the speed limit should be raised to 70 MPH. Police officers in the area were equally unenthusiastic about the project.”

    In other words, anecdotal evidence and opinion-based (not fact-based) surveys give the system a bad score. But:

    “MoDOT touted the slight reduction in travel times found in three of the four segments analyzed to declare the program a success. It also cited accident reductions on Interstate 270, even though 69 percent of police officers surveyed thought the program did nothing to improve safety.”

    Let’s rewrite this paragraph to take out the pejorative adjectives and weasel words:

    MoDOT’s analysis showed reduction in travel times on three of the four segments analyzed, and accident reductions on Interstate 270. Many police officers disagreed, but had no evidence beyond their feelings.

    Looks a little different after the linguistic bias-ectomy. Maybe variable speed limits work and maybe they don’t, but you can’t tell from this I’m-gonna-grind-this-ax-no-matter-what article.

  • avatar
    vento97

    The Missouri Department of Transportation (MoDOT) announced Wednesday that it was expanding a system for lowering speed limits on the freeway, despite its own surveys showing the public has a “high level of dissatisfaction with the system.”

    In other words – they are saying “F” the public…  nice…

    Talking about MDOT having a hand in your wallet while simultaneously administering a prostate exam…


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