Variable speed limits, electronic signs now active on three B.C. highways

Reduced limit will be tailored to weather on sections of Sea-to-Sky Highway, Coquihalla and Highway 1 near Revelstoke

New variable speed limits with electronic signs are in force on some B.C. highways.

Variable speed limits have now been activated with electronic signs to enforce reduced speeds during bad weather along stretches of the Sea-To-Sky Highway, the Coquihalla and Highway 1 near Revelstoke.

The province committed to the variable speed zones at the same time it decided to raise the posted maximums to 120 km/h on portions of the Coquihalla, and to 100 km/h on much of the Sea-to-Sky Highway.

“It is important drivers understand that along these corridors, these signs aren’t ‘speed readers’, they are the law,” Transportation Minister Todd Stone said. “These electronic signs will adjust the speed limit according to conditions and will require drivers to slow down and reduce their speed in bad weather.”

The digital signs will be very visible to drivers, and the speed limit will be adjusted to reflect driving conditions. Overhead message signs at the entrance of each corridor will inform drivers to be aware of changing weather conditions. Flashing amber lights will alert drivers to adjusted speeds that are not the posted limits along these corridors.

The province had promised the 47 digital signs would be activated in time for last winter, but more testing was required. Questions had also been raised by police about the procedure to fairly enforce the variable limits.

An extensive system of traffic, pavement and visibility sensors will be calibrated to detect challenging conditions – whether it’s extreme cold, freezing rain or heavy snowfall – and provide a recommended speed to operations staff, who will update the maximum speed shown on digital signs.

Overhead message signs at the entrance to each corridor tell drivers they’re entering a variable speed zone and to be aware of changing weather conditions.

The transportation ministry spent $12.5 million to install and run the three pilot systems.

Officials hope the pilot project will spur more drivers to reduce speed in severe winter conditions and save lives by reducing the frequency and severity of crashes.

The province has installed 16 variable signs on the Sea to Sky from Squamish to Whistler, 13 on the Coquihalla from Portia interchange to the old toll plaza, and 18 on Highway 1 from Perry River to Revelstoke.