70 MPH Speed Limit
The General Assembly passed House Bill 856 and Senate Bill 537 — both signed by Gov. Bob McDonnell — increasing the maximum allowable highway speed limit to 70 mph after a traffic engineering study.
This blll affected speed limits on:
- Multi-lane, divided, limited access highways
- High-occupancy vehicle lanes that are physically separated from regular travel lanes
These bills revised the Code of Virginia § 46.2-870, effective July 1, 2010.
The initial focus of the effort was on interstate highways already posted at 65 mph, the maximum previously allowed by law.
Engineering studies were initiated on April 12, 2010, and final recommendations subsequently completed and 70 mph speed limits posted on 671 miles of interstates.
The first speed limit change resulting from the 2010 code change took place on July 1, 2010. Interstate 295 from the Lafrance Road underpass, just south of Interstate 64 (east of Richmond) to the I-295/I95 interchange south of Petersburg -- approximately 27 miles -- was increased to 70 mph on July 1, 2010.
The statewide posting of the 70 mph speed limits was completed over a two-week period just prior to Thanksgiving, 2010.
The map below shows the present locations of 70 mph speed limit postings on interstates statewide, sections that were recommended to retain a speed limit of 65 mph, as well as sections posted below 65 mph that were not considered for study.
Engineering Study for Interstate Speed Limits
The studies to increase the speed limit were generally based on criteria from the Manual on Uniform Traffic Control Devices (MUTCD) as well as other standard engineering guidance that define the standards used by road managers nationwide to install and maintain traffic control devices on all public streets and highways.
The engineering study comprised a comprehensive review, with a primary emphasis on:
- Safety and enforcement consensus
- A consideration of crash history
- Roadside safety features such as guardrail and rumble strips, as well as warning and guide signs
- The suitability of physical roadway characteristics such as, grade, alignment, lane and shoulder widths, etc.
- Features affecting traffic flow, such as interchange spacing, vehicle mix, and traffic volumes
A review by the Virginia State Police and local law enforcement provided valuable knowledge for locations that were acceptable for an increase and others that were not, and a recommendation on the best location to begin and/or end a speed limit increase.
The engineering studies identified improvements such as guardrail, rumble strips, and warning and guide signs on sections of interstate highways. These improvements are in various stages of implementation statewide.
The Virginia Department of Transportation (VDOT) reminds motorists that law enforcement agencies will enforce the posted speed limit on any highway.
Therefore, you should not exceed the posted speed limit, even if traveling a stretch of road that you think is scheduled to increase.
Safety is VDOT’s number one priority.
On a limited-access highway, the goal is to keep all traffic moving in the same direction on each lane at relatively similar speeds. This limits the need for lane changes and therefore reduces the chance of accidents.
Large differences in speed can actually cause accidents as faster traffic slows down or changes lanes to avoid slower drivers ahead.
Although it may seem contrary to some that increasing speed limits can improve the safety on roadways, consistency in speed among drivers is a major factor in preventing accidents. We want to create a situation where there is very little variation in speeds between the fastest and slowest drivers using a highway.
For additional information on how speed limits are determined, go to: http://www.virginiadot.org/info/faq-speedlimits.asp
For More Information
Contact Michael D. Nichols, P.E.