- The Washington Times - Wednesday, October 3, 2001

RICHMOND (AP) Speed limits will increase by up to 10 mph on about 60 miles of interstate highways in the state's urban areas over the next few weeks.
Limits are being raised from 55 mph to 60 or 65 mph as a result of Virginia Department of Transportation engineering studies mandated by the General Assembly. The changes will be phased in between mid-October and November, said VDOT Commissioner Charles D. "Chip" Nottingham.
The federal government lowered interstate speed limits to 55 mph nationally during the energy crisis of the 1970s but allowed states to raise the limits in nonurban areas in the 1980s and in urban areas in 1995.
Virginia's urban interstate speed limits "probably should not have still been 55 mph when the [federal] law went to 65 mph," Mr. Nottingham said. He said he was pleased that the assembly legislation "triggered VDOT to go back and reconsider our interstate speed limits."
The changes will accommodate lead-footed drivers and improve safety at the same time, Mr. Nottingham said.
"You want traffic to all be moving at the same or similar speed," he said, noting that traffic on roadways approaching city centers often flows naturally at speeds in excess of the posted limits. "A lot of people complained that these areas were really speed traps."
Citing Interstate 64 near the Richmond International Airport and Interstate 81 at the Virginia-Tennessee line near Bristol as prime examples, Mr. Nottingham said the changes will both relieve congestion and help eliminate some of these chronic "speed trap" locations.
New speed-limit signs will go up this month in the northern and western parts of the state and by mid-November elsewhere. Until the signs are posted, authorities say, drivers are advised to maintain the current posted 55 mph speed limit.

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