Construction zone speeds have changed

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Catherine W. Idzerda
Sunday, July 16, 2017

JANESVILLE—It would be a good idea to stay off your phone when driving on the Interstate.

You also might want to keep both hands on the wheel.

These things have always been true, but Interstate construction between Beloit and Madison has meant shifting lanes, single lanes, curves where there were no curves before and a variety of other obstacles.

Here's another thing that's different: While most of the work is being done at night, the speed in construction zones remain relatively high.

“With our projects, we try to keep the speed at 70 mph where appropriate,” said Steve Theisen, project communications manager.

That is a “significant change” from when the Interstate improvement started several years age.

Reducing speed to 55 mph in construction zones doesn't just impact the motorists in the immediate area, Theisen said. Fluctuating speeds can cause backups up and down Interstate.

After the state changed the speed limit to 70 mph, shifts happened in construction zones, too.

The change might seem scary to some drivers, but it wasn't done without careful consideration.

The Wisconsin Department of Transportation considers a variety of factors when determining the most efficient and safest travel speeds in work zones, Theisen wrote in an email to The Gazette.

“WisDOT traffic engineers and construction staff regularly monitor and review work zones and make necessary adjustments to minimize crashes,” Theisen wrote. “The 70 mph posted speed limit has been standard for the I-39/90 project and has proven successful thus far…”

In certain areas, the speed is reduced to 60 mph. For example, in Newville, where the bridge is being replaced, the speed limit is 60 mph because of narrow lanes, Theisen said.

In other construction areas, “advisory” speed limits are posted. Advisory means just that. People exceeding the advisory limits will not be ticketed.

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