Wyoming Department of Transportation
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Winter Weather Gives Opportunity to Test new VSL System

Date: 01/31/2011 

03:16

ROCK SPRINGS – Although the Variable Speed Limit (VSL) signs between Rock Springs and Green River on Interstate 80 were not officially ‘live’, the return of winter weather Sunday night gave the Wyoming Department of Transportation the opportunity to test the use of the newly installed signs.  The VSL system was recently installed between milepost 88.86 and 110.3 to help to reduce crashes, save lives and decrease crash-related highway closures on the interstate on one of the state’s busiest road sections that carries an average of more than 20,000 vehicles a day. Regulating a slower speed reduces the differences in speed that drivers are driving and increases a driver’s ability to react to weather and travel conditions.

Lt. Scott Keane with the Wyoming Highway Patrol said it was encouraging to see the voluntary compliance with the reduced speeds Monday morning. Throughout the day, speed limits ranged from 40-65 mph.

 

 
“We will be aggressively enforcing the reduced speed limits. There has got to be total compliance with the speed limit if the VSL is going to be effective,” Keane said. “We will be writing tickets for five miles an hour or less over the posted speed limit,” he said.
 
The highway sections that are utilizing the VSL System are considered to be ‘Superintendent’s Speed Zones,’ and carry a different fine table than speeding violations on other types of roads in Wyoming.
 
UNIFORM B AIL AND F ORFEITURE S CHEDULE as set by the Wyoming Supreme Court, July 1, 2010
SPEEDING VIOLATIONS – superintendent’s speed zones (except construction zones)
“Trucks” = Trucks with gross vehicle weight or gross vehicle weight rating exceeding 26,000 lbs.--exceeding 5 miles over speed limit--same as cars, plus $300.00 (Penalty 31-5-1201(g))
31-5-301(c)
Superintendent’s speed zones, includes $20.00 courts costs plus $10.00 court automation fee plus $10.00 civil legal services fee
1 – 5 mph
$55.00
$55.00
6 – 9
$70.00
$370.00
10 – 16 mph $50.00 & $20.00 court costs & $10.00 court automation fee & $10.00 civil legal services fee & $2.00 per mile over posted speed
10 -
$110.00
$410.00
11 -
$112.00
$412.00
12 -
$114.00
$414.00
13 -
$116.00
$416.00
14 -
$118.00
$418.00
15 -
$120.00
$420.00
16 -
$122.00
$422.00
17 – 24 mph $50.00 & $20.00 court costs & $10.00 court automation fee & $10.00 civil legal services fee & $4.00 per mile over posted speed up to $200.00
17 -
$158.00
$458.00
18 -
$162.00
$462.00
19 -
$166.00
$466.00
20 -
$170.00
$470.00
21 -
$174.00
$474.00
22 -
$178.00
$478.00
23 -
$182.00
$482.00
24 -
$186.00
$486.00
25 and above
$240.00
$540.00

Keane said fines for speeding in a Superintendent’s Speed Zone that are not part of a construction zone that are between one and nine miles an hour over the posted speed limit are fairly low. “Once a ticket is issued for 10 miles an hour or more, the fine rate begins to increase rapidly,” he said.

 
“Drivers need to know that if it is snowing, they should expect to find the speed limit has been lowered. They need to give themselves more time to reach their destination and just slow down. Give us the opportunity to get you there safely,” he said.
 
WYDOT’s first use of reduced speed zone was on a section of I-80 between Rawlins and Laramie, where a seasonal speed limit was set in place for a six-month period beginning on Oct. 15, 2008. The VSL signs began operating on a portion of this highway section in February 2009. The seasonal limit resumed for another six-month period beginning on Oct. 15, 2009 and by the end of that year additional variable speed limit signs had been brought online to cover the remainder of the section.
 
WYDOT crash data for the section showed a peak in the number of crashes during 2007, with 402 crashes, 91 which resulted in injuries and three fatalities.
 
In 2008, with the seasonal speed limit and later, with the variable speed limits in effect, total crashes dropped to 248, with 59 resulting in injuries and no fatalities. Last winter, between Oct. 15, 2009 and April 15, 2010, when the seasonal limit was again in effect and the variable speed limit section expanded, total crashes dropped to 181, 39 which resulted in injuries and four fatalities.
 
When the data is narrowed to only crashes involving commercial vehicles, the number dropped from 183 during the winter season of 2007-2008, to 91 the 2008-2009 season and 51 last season.
 
Highway closures on the section also dropped. During the two winter seasons before the seasonal and variable speed limits were in effect, there were 39 closures for a cumulative total of 369 hours. During the two seasons the seasonal and variable limits were in effect, there were 25 closures for a cumulative total of 165 hours.
 
The drop in crashes and closures cannot be attributed solely to the ability to lower the speed limit when needed, because there were a number of variations in weather conditions, the length, frequency and severity of storms, and traffic volumes on the section, but WYDOT officials believe the VSL System definitely has contributed to it. The success of the Rawlins to Laramie project prompted WYDOT to seek funding to add the VSL system in additional areas across the I-80 corridor that are prone to numerous crashes and closures.
 
In November of 2010, two additional projects to create VSL zones on Interstate 80 were awarded by the Wyoming Transportation Commission.
 
H&H Electric of Douglas, was awarded a $1.3 million contract to install the VSL System between the Grand Avenue Interchange east of Laramie and the Round Top Road Interchange west of Cheyenne. Modern Electric of Casper was awarded an $853,000 contract to install the variable signs on a 20-mile section of I-80 in the ‘Three Sisters’ area east of Evanston. Both contracts carry a Sept. 30, 2011 completion date.
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