CHARLOTTE, N.C. — Plans posted to the NCDOT website Friday appeared to outline a plan that would reduce the speed limit on a large section of Interstate 485, but when Channel 9 asked the agency about the plans, they were deleted from the site.
The information appeared as a news release that read:
“In an effort to reduce crashes, a segment of Interstate 485 will see the speed limit reduced from 70 to 65 miles per hour starting Sept. 23.
The change will take effect on the section between Mount Holly Road (N.C. 27) in west Charlotte, continuing along the southern portion of the highway, and Independence Boulevard (U.S. 74) in Matthews.
NCDOT raised the speed limit in 2015 when the final section of I-485 was completed, since the highway was designed for a 70-mph speed limit.
The department analyzed crashes three years before the loop’s completion (June 5, 2012 - June 5, 2015) and after (June 5, 2015 – June 5, 2018). Crashes along this segment increased by 54 percent, and traffic volume went up 27 percent. Rear-end collisions were the most common type of crash.
In addition to the increase in traffic volume, differences in speed between free-flowing and congested areas is prompting the reduction.
Crews will be changing up to 70 signs in this area to reflect the change, which should take one day to complete.”
In response to questions about the deleted announcement, an NCDOT spokesperson sent this statement to Channel 9:
“NCDOT’s first priority is safety. With increasing traffic volume and congestion, the department is actively looking for ways to increase safety and reduce crashes on all corridors, including I-485. We will continue monitoring efforts as we consider methods, including a reduction of the speed limit, to make all roadways safer.”
When the I-485 loop was finished four years ago, the DOT raised the speed limit for the entire 67 miles to 70 mph.
Traffic Team 9’s Mark Taylor researched speed limit reduction and its effectiveness to reduce crashes.
He found that for every five mile per hours increase in a highway’s speed limit, road fatalities rose by 8.5 percent, according to the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety. The research from IIHS also noted that around 37,000 more people have died over the last 25 years because of increases in the speed limit.
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