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CONTACT: Ann Overton
                     VTRC Public Affairs manager
                     (434) 293-1912

August 15, 2005


U.S. 29 Bypass at Altavista Part of Federal Research Project
State, UVA engineers conducting study for FHWA
ALTAVISTA – Drivers on the U.S. 29 Bypass around Altavista should heed the extra signs that read “65 mph, Increased Enforcement.”
They are part of a federal study that the Virginia Transportation Research Council (VTRC) is conducting with the University of Virginia’s (UVA.) Center for Transportation Studies to help drivers along this 8.5-mile stretch of highway obey the new 65 miles-per-hour (mph) speed limit, which the state raised from 55 mph in December 2004.
The Federal Highway Administration (FHWA) awarded a $408,697 grant to VTRC to determine whether increased enforcement and increased education will help drivers better comply with the posted speed limit along the Altavista Bypass and the U.S. 58/220 Bypass around Martinsville in Henry County. VTRC, located in Charlottesville, is a partnership of the Virginia Department of Transportation (VDOT) and UVA.
The 28-month study, to conclude in mid-2006, will ascertain the connection between visible enforcement and other reinforcing information.  It is part of a larger national project FHWA also is conducting in Connecticut, Indiana, Louisiana, Massachusetts, Michigan and Mississippi.  Virginia’s portion of the study focuses on high-speed, limited-access highways that have mostly non-local through traffic, while the other states are studying driving speeds on local streets in various cities and counties.
On a limited-access highway, the goal is to keep all traffic moving in the same direction in each lane at relatively similar speeds.  This reduces the need for lane changes and therefore lowers the chance of crashes.  Large differences in speed can actually cause crashes as faster drivers slow down or change lanes to avoid slower vehicles.
In 2004, the Virginia General Assembly voted to allow VDOT to adjust the speed limits on multi-lane, limited-access highways.  As a result, speed limits could be raised to 65 mph after engineering analyses determined that increased speeds were appropriate for specific portions of these highways.
VDOT engineers examined the traffic patterns, predominant speeds and volumes of the traffic, crash history, entrance and exit points, shoulder widths and other important design factors before proposing speed-limit changes. In the case of the U.S. 29 Bypass around Altavista, VDOT determined the most appropriate speed on this segment of highway to be 65 mph.
Virginia State Police will continue to visibly enforce and ensure compliance with the new speed limit.
For further information about how VDOT sets speed limits on different types of roads throughout the Commonwealth, visit “Speed Limits: Frequently Asked Questions” at on the VDOT web site.