Speed limit to drop to 35 mph on stretch of Richmond Highway

Drivers in Northern Virginia should start preparing to slow down on Richmond Highway, as the speed limit along a 7-mile stretch of the highway will be going down from 45 mph to 35 mph.

The change officially takes effect on May 23, when crews will be changing the speed limit signs so that drivers will notice the change immediately.

“Pay very close attention and put your phone down,” said Ellen Kamilakis, a spokeswoman with the Virginia Department of Transportation.

“It’s going to be a corridor from Jeff Todd Way and Mount Vernon Memorial Highway up to the southern border with Alexandria,” Kamilakis said. “It’s in areas like Mount Vernon, Groveton, Hybla Valley and Fort Hunt.”

The change is being made in an effort to reduce serious crashes on the highway.

“The speed limit needed to be reduced for the safety of all users,” Kamilakis said.

Last year, VDOT issued a recommendation, saying the speed limit should be reduced in the area.

It followed a study on how to improve safety for pedestrians, bicyclists, drivers and transit users. The study investigated all crashes reported between 2016 and 2020.

At a public information meeting in July, VDOT Project Manager Jessica Paris said speed limit recommendations are only based on existing conditions and not estimated or planned future conditions.

“This is a growing and transitioning corridor, and there have been safety concerns expressed regarding the relative rate of crashes as well as changes in development and access along this section of the roadway,” Paris said.

Study manager Warren Hughes presented the findings, which found that the crash rate between Jeff Todd Way and Buckman Road was 74% higher than the statewide average.

VDOT Northern Virginia District Traffic Engineer Gil Chlewicki said research shows that speed could determine whether someone survives being struck by a vehicle.

“The slower the speed is of the vehicle when it hits the pedestrian, the better chance the pedestrian has of surviving or having fewer injuries,” Chlewicki said.

Nick Iannelli

Nick Iannelli can be heard covering developing and breaking news stories on WTOP.

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