I-66 drivers to see travel time signs next week

Starting Monday, drivers on Interstate 66 will see travel times displayed on electronic message boards between Gainesville and the Capital Beltway, the Virginia Department of Transportation said.

These signs will be similar to the ones that Maryland drivers see on highways. The signs name a destination, then display the mileage and the estimated travel time. The information is easy to take in at a glance and is one of the best uses for the message boards.

In Maryland, for example, drivers on southbound I-95 might see a display with Capital Beltway travel times to Virginia via either the Wilson Bridge or the Legion Bridge. That information allows the drivers to decide whether to stick with their original choices or change course.

VDOT is starting with three signs on I-66 as a two-month pilot project, testing both the system and drivers’ responses. (Some drivers in Maryland complained that people slow down to read the signs, increasing congestion. I don’t see that, and feel sure that VDOT will be able to expand its program to other highways, as it plans to.)

Look for the signs next week at these locations:

— Eastbound I-66, just east of Route 28, showing the time to the Beltway.

— Westbound I-66, just west of Route 50, showing the time to Gainesville.

— Westbound I-66, just west of Route 7100, showing the time to Gainesville.

The signs will operate from 5 a.m. to 9 p.m. weekdays and 8 a.m. to 8 p.m. weekends.

The VDOT system uses traffic data from INRIX Inc., a prominent supplier of real-time travel data, and from other information sources to determine the travel times. The information will flow through the Public Safety Transportation Operations Center in Fairfax County, where traffic controllers will monitor the system and make sure the messages are refreshed every five minutes.

Robert Thomson is The Washington Post’s “Dr. Gridlock.” He answers travelers’ questions, listens to their complaints and shares their pain on the roads, trains and buses in the Washington region.

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