Variable speed limit systems are being installed on Highway 1 between Abbotsford and Chilliwack. (Ministry of Transportation and Infrastructure)

Variable speed system between Chilliwack and Abbotsford won’t be ready until winter

Construction almost complete but six months of data and testing needed for first such system in B.C.

Construction on the variable speed system on Highway 1 between Chilliwack and Abbotsford is expected to wrap up by August, but drivers won’t see the digital signs working until winter.

The digital signs will show a varying speed limit on signs installed between the Sumas River Bridge and Prest Road overpass, depending on congestion. It’s hoped the system will cut down on the large number of rear-enders in the heavily travelled corridor.

The project – which also includes seven kilometres of similar signs near Hope – has a $25 million price tag.

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When the project was announced last year, the province expected the system to be up and running by this summer.

But although the Ministry of Transportation and Infrastructure expects construction to be complete by August, the system now isn’t expected to be operational until the winter.

Instead, the ministry will spend about six months collecting data. That information will be used to “refine the system, as the congestion-based variable speed technology is brand new to B.C.,” according to an email from a Ministry of Transportation and Infrastructure spokesperson. The signs won’t be active during that testing phase.

The idea behind the systems is to lower the speed limit to slow vehicles down before traffic reaches a stop-and-go situation, helping to reduce the number of collisions that occur when drivers do not notice vehicles that have stopped on the highway.

The Ministry’s numbers show traffic on the Highway 1 corridor increased by 16 per cent between 2013 and 2017, as counted just west of Vedder Road in Chilliwack.

But over that same period, accidents have gone from 720 to 1,100 per year, an increase of 52 per cent.

-with files from Paul Henderson


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