Facing reality on I-664

Published 10:31 pm Friday, March 2, 2012

Sometimes it just makes sense to face reality and stop fighting it.

Such is the case with the speed limit along I-664, which is set to be changed next week to 60 miles per hour along its entire route through Suffolk. The reality, in fact, is that many, if not most, people drive much faster than 60 mph along this stretch of highway, at least when traffic is not stopped for an accident or breakdown in the Monitor-Merrimac Memorial Bridge Tunnel. But the pretense of 55 mph along portions adjacent to the bridge and the Bowers Hill interchange would never have held up to even the lightest scrutiny.

Pity the person who took his life in his hands by doing the old speed limit on the road. “Safe,” as it turns out, is a relative concept when applied to the science of speed limits. What’s safest is often — despite what your mother might have told you — the speed that prevails among the vehicles that share the road with you. And highway officials, without actually using those words, pretty much confirm it.

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“The goal of the speed limit increase is to keep traffic moving in each lane at relatively similar speeds,” Mike Corwin, VDOT Hampton Roads regional traffic engineer, said this week. Traveling at similar speeds reduces the need for lane changes and the likelihood of accidents, he said.

So the speed limit will now be 60 — in both lanes — not that anyone in the left lane will pay any more attention to the new limit than they did to the old one.