PennDOT activates variable speed limits signs on I-76 to balance traffic

PennDOT activated dozens of variable speed limit signs along 14 miles of the Schuylkill Expressway Thursday to balance traffic and reduce congestion.

Video Transcript

- 4:30 with the effort to alleviate a problem you are definitely familiar with intimately if you've ever driven on the Schuylkill Expressway-- traffic jams.

- Every time. PennDOT installed new speed limit signs designed to help cut down on those frustrating delays.

- For more on what this technology will hopefully do, we turn now to Action News Reporter Jeff Chirico live there on the infamous 76 turnaround. Jeff, what's this going to do?

JEFF CHIRICO: The hope is it's going to ease congestion. More than 130 cars travel the Schuylkill every single day. That's four times what this roadway was built to handle. And since they can't widen the roadway, PennDOT is turning to technology. Everyone's seen this before. Brake lights, crawling traffic, another day on the Schuylkill Expressway.

- I totally avoid that road.

EILEEN WILLIAMS: Jam, jam, jam. And then all of a sudden, it clears up, and you have no idea why.

- To help alleviate those headaches, PennDOT today activated digital speed signs, which change the speed limit depending on traffic conditions on this overcapacity highway.

YASSMIN GRAMIAN: We have outgrown the current roadway. Building additional capacity on 76 is not feasible.

JEFF CHIRICO: 72 variable speed limit signs now line 14 miles between King of Prussia and Philadelphia. Roadway sensors and a complex software system work together to lower the speed limit when conditions warrant, in hopes of preventing brake-tapping, the main cause of traffic jams.

YASSMIN GRAMIAN: These signs and systems will alert drivers to changing conditions so they can adjust their speed and anticipate what's ahead.

JEFF CHIRICO: And for drivers who don't follow the signs, the state police will be watching.

ROBERT KROL: Drivers are expected to obey the variable speed limit signs just like a traditional speed limit sign.

JEFF CHIRICO: These signs are part of PennDOT's continuing plans to improve traffic flow on the Schuylkill. Shoulder flex lanes and ramp meters are planned for the future. As for the variable speed limit signs, it's up to drivers now to obey the posted limits to make the PennDOT plan work.

EILEEN WILLIAMS: I don't know that people really pay attention to those things. I'm a little bit of a pessimist.

JEFF CHIRICO: And I should have said 130,000 cars travel the Schuylkill every day. Now, for the next several weeks, the signs will remain unchanged as drivers get used to them. But then on May 10, the old signs come down and the new system will be activated. Reporting live along the Schuylkill, Jeff Chirico, Channel Six Action News.