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I-66 high-tech traffic system enters first full week

New variable signs are now over each lane for miles on Interstate 66 (Max Smith/WTOP)

WASHINGTON — This is the first Monday-morning commute on Interstate 66 featuring new variable signs over each lane for miles, in conjunction with other features of the highway’s new active traffic management system.

In the stretch near the Vienna Metro and beyond, LED signs over each lane can show the 55 mph speed limit on a white background, or lower recommended speed limits on a yellow background as drivers approach a delay in order to help drivers avoid slamming on the brakes. The system can also display lane arrows to direct drivers to be cautious or merge, and allows the Virginia Department of Transportation to open the ‘red X lane’ even at off-peak hours if traffic congestion warrants it.

VDOT spokeswoman Michelle Holland says that happened during the very first rush hour the system  was in place on Wednesday afternoon.

“We did have to turn on the ‘red X’ lane in the eastbound direction for the afternoon commute, so we had it operating in both directions … and the system is working,” she says.

The system also adds new message boards that VDOT can use to convey information to drivers, and changes the ramp meters that limit the number of cars merging onto I-66 inside the Beltway to a system that adapts to match traffic conditions.

VDOT says the system is working well a few days after launching.  “There’s so much signage out there that drivers seem to be acclimating … so far, traffic is flowing well and we’re pleased,” Holland says.

The $38.6 million project began last year.

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