The Oregon Department of Transportation (ODOT) has activated digital speed limit signs across a 30-mile section of Interstate 84 between Baker City and La Grande, and will use them to adjust the legal speed limit when conditions, such as ice, snow, fog or collisions, warrant.
The signs were installed this summer, ODOT says, and for two months have been displaying the current speed limits. They are connected to road sensors and are fully functional.
“The idea behind these new signs is to warn motorists ahead of hazardous road conditions and get them to slow down before they enter a potentially dangerous situation,” says ODOT Area Manager Ken Patterson. “The section of freeway between Baker City and La Grande is positioned between the Eagle Cap and Elkhorn mountain ranges. This often creates microclimates with more severe weather patterns than adjacent sections of freeway.”
The road sensors provide temperature, visibility, traction, vehicle speeds and moisture levels into the signs. If they show a majority of vehicles are slowing down, then the signs will indicate speeds should be reduced. If they detect any hazardous conditions, they will indicate as such and low speed limits. A manual override from ODOT staff is available so adjustments can be made when needed for crashes or construction.
“This is the first time in Oregon a speed limit sign system has been installed that can adjust the legal speed,” Patterson says. “Similar projects have been constructed in other states with positive results. Over the winter we will be monitoring our new system and making adjustments as needed.”
ODOT plans to install a second system on I-84 between La Grand and Pendleton in the next few years.