Ohio’s Variable Speed and I-670 SmartLane Technology

To increase safety and improve travel times on Ohio’s roadways, the Ohio Department of Transportation (ODOT) has recently turned to variable speed limit technology through two pilot projects.

For traffic eastbound on Interstate 670, outside of Columbus, ODOT recently opened the Smartlane, an extra travel lane only open when drivers need congestion relief. When the SmartLane is open, the speed limit drops to keep traffic flowing at a constant, slower speed to avoid stop-and-go backups that cause crashes. Prior to construction, traffic speeds on that stretch averaged 25 mph and the drive could take anywhere from 5 minutes to 30 minutes. In the first month of operation, average travel times were cut in half and drivers can now rely on a 5-minute-commute, regardless of the time of day.

Variable speed limit technology was also deployed along a stretch of Interstate 90 east of Cleveland where sudden winter whiteouts caused large, multi-vehicle pileups. ODOT adjusts the speed limit in response to closely-monitored weather and traffic conditions to avoid the potential of crashes from poor visibility or stopped traffic. Phase 2 of the I-90 project will involve testing the use of AI in making recommendations for when to lower the speed as well as incorporate connected vehicle technology in partnership with the Highway Patrol. Since its launch in 2017, there has been a 58 percent reduction in crashes when snowing and secondary crashes are down 63 percent. The effort has also reduced the time needed to clear a crash by more than a half-hour.

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