Schuylkill Expressway

Can't (Always) Drive 55: How Fast You Can Go on I-76 Will Soon Be Variable

The goal for the new speed limits is to lessen stop-and-go traffic and reduce rear-ended crashes that plague I-76

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What to Know

  • The speed limit on the Schuylkill Expressway between King of Prussia, Montgomery County, and Philadelphia soon will be changing depending on conditions.
  • PennDOT on Thursday marked the activation of variable speed limit signs.
  • Around 130,000 drivers use the 14-mile stretch of I-76 daily, PennDOT says.

The speed limit could soon be changing as you drive along the crowded Schuylkill Expressway.

PennDOT officials marked the activation of 72 variable speed limit (VSL) signs over a 14-mile stretch of Interstate 76 from King of Prussia, Montgomery County, to the U.S. Route 1 Interchange in Philadelphia.

The signs, starting next month, could vary the speed limit between 35 mph and 55 mph on the busy highway that serves around 130,000 drivers daily.

During a testing period lasting until May 10, the speed limits will remain static (55 mph in Montgomery County and 50 mph in Philly) eastbound and westbound as PennDOT analyzes data from a Queue Detection and Warning (QDW) system that was also installed, PennDOT said.

The monthlong testing period will also give drivers time to adjust to electronic signs that will deliver alerts on lane closures and other slowdowns.

"These devices will help reduce congestion and greatly improve safety by warning drivers of changing conditions based on real-time expressway, traffic and weather events," PennDOT Secretary Yassmin Gramian said Thursday. “This is one of the ways we are using operational strategies and technologies to actively manage travel and traffic flow along this critical corridor.”

The goal of lessening stop-and-go traffic could help reduce rear-ended crashes that plague I-76.

"According to PennDOT data, there were 2,580 reportable crashes on I-76 in Montgomery County from 2015 through 2019," the agency said in a news release. "Of those, 1,741 were rear-end crashes. VSL deployments in other states have been shown to reduce crashes by as much as 30%."

Don't think that you can ignore the speed limit if it dips below the established 55 mph or 50 mph.

“Speed limits posted to the new VSL signs on I-76 will serve as enforceable, regulatory speed limits, not recommended speed advisories,” Pennsylvania State Police Captain Robert Krol said.

The project, which is part of the Transform 76 plan, began in 2018 and cost an estimated $10.5 million, PennDOT said. The next phase of the plan includes using the shoulder of the highway as an extra lane.

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