58 limit goes to 60 today

Published 12:00 am Thursday, March 10, 2005

Most motorists already travel 60 miles an hour – if not faster – on Route 58.

Beginning today, it will be legal, at least on parts of the highway.

The speed limit on an eight-mile segment of Route 58 – from the Holland Road intersection to west of the Southeastern Public Service Authority’s landfill – is being raised from 55 to 60 miles an hour, said Sandy Shortridge, spokeswoman for the Virginia Department of Transportation.

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These changes are the result of legislation passed by the General Assembly in 2004 allowing VDOT to adjust speed limits on multi-lane, limited-access highways, Shortridge said. The legislation allows for speed limits up to 65 mph after an engineering analysis determines that increased speeds are appropriate for some parts of these highways.

Traffic engineers examine the traffic patterns, predominant traffic speeds, traffic volumes, crash history, entrance and exit points, shoulder widths and other design factors before suggesting speed limit changes.

VDOT also consulted with city officials before making the change, Shortridge said.

The change is meant to help keep the highway safer, she said.

On a limited-access highway, the goal is to keep all traffic moving in the same direction in each lane at relatively similar speeds, she said. This limits the need for lane changes, which reduces the chances of crashes.

Dennis W. Heuer, VDOT’s Hampton Roads district manager, agreed.

&uot;Large differences in speed can actually cause crashes as faster traffic slows down or changes lanes to avoid slower drivers ahead,&uot; he said. &uot;It may seem counterintuitive that increasing speed limits can improve safety on roadways, but traffic data shows that consistency in speed among drivers is a major factor in preventing crashes.

&uot;Motorists need to remember that the speed limit on a highway is set to maximize safety for everyone on the road.&uot;

Authorities don’t know what effect raising the speed limit will have, said Lt. Debbie George, spokeswoman for the Suffolk Police Department.

&uot;Our main concern is the safety of motorists,&uot; said George. &uot;Whether the speed limit is 55 or 60, we will continue to patrol and take enforcement action when warranted to keep the roadway