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GETTING THERE: Virginia drops in national highway rankings
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GETTING THERE: Virginia drops in national highway rankings

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IT LOOKS like Virginia’s highway system took one on the chin in a recent ranking by the Reason Foundation.

In Reason’s 25th annual highway report, Virginia ranked 21st, a precipitous drop from the No. 2 spot last year.

The foundation noted that last year’s high ranking “may have been an aberration” as the state ranked 27th two years ago.

Either way, at least you can say Virginia ranks among the top half nationwide.

Among some of the key categories, here’s how Virginia, the third largest highway system in the country, ranked:

  • Rural interstate pavement condition: 4
  • Rural arterial pavement: 5
  • Structurally deficient bridges: 13
  • Fatality rate: 17

Capital and bridge costs per mile: 17

Urban interstate pavement condition: 21

Spending per mile: 32

Traffic congestion: 44.

A big part of the state’s nosedive could be attributed to a “20-spot drop in total disbursements per mile.”

But the culprit, to no local driver’s surprise, is clear.

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“To improve in the rankings, Virginia needs to reduce its traffic congestion,” Baruch Feigenbaum, lead author of the annual highway report and senior managing director of transportation policy at Reason Foundation, said in a news release.

He also said Virginia has three of the most congested interstate corridors in the nation.

In an email, Feigenbaum said the study used Federal Highway Administration data, which he acknowledged is a few years old. But he added that VDOT traffic counts indicate the corridors are still among the most congested in the country.

He said Interstate 95 between Fredericksburg and Washington, D.C., ranked as one of the most congested of all corridors. Interstate 66 in Fairfax and Prince William counties has the some of the worst urban congestion, and Interstate 81 has some of the worst rural congestion.

Dear Scott: Over the past few months, new “60 mph” speed limit signs have been placed on sections of State Route 3 and U.S. 301 in King George County. Although I like the changes to the speed limit, I have noticed that no new “Reduced Speed Ahead” signs have been placed on the roadways when it is necessary to reduce the speed limit from 60 mph to 45 mph, for example.

I assumed that such signs were required when the speed limit dropped more than 10 mph. (Reducing the speed limit from 60 mph to 45 mph is 15 mph).

Is this not the case?

—Thom Armentrout, Stafford County

The simple answer here is that the signs were in place before the speed limit changes, but there’s a little more to it.

Local Virginia Department of Transportation spokeswoman Kelly Hannon cleared up the question. She said VDOT generally posts advisory speed reduction signs for changes of 10 mph or more. Since the previous difference in speed limits was 10 mph (55–45), the advisory signs were already in place.

Also, the advisory signs are different from what the questioner expected.

The actual alert signs are diamond-shaped and yellow with an image of the “advisory” speed limit (in this case “Speed Limit 45”) and an arrow pointing ahead, Hannon said.

Hannon added that VDOT usually installs orange flags for 90 days when speed limits are reduced, but not when the speed limit is increased.

Scott Shenk: 540/374-5436

sshenk@freelancestar.com

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