Caltrans tries varying speed signs to cut through rush hour traffic

SAN DIEGO — Caltrans will experiment with a new program designed to make the daily commute less of a grind for San Diegans, introducing adjustable speed signs that tell travelers the best speed to drive during rush hour.

The transportation agency announced the pilot program on Friday.

Drivers headed eastbound on State Route 78 will see the seven electronic signs between Vista Village Drive and Interstate 15. During rush hour, the signs will tell travelers their “optimal driving speed.”

The idea is to synchronize traffic so that drivers slow down in advance of bottlenecks, keeping stop-and-go traffic from ever building.

“Essentially, we are asking motorists to slow down to go faster,” said State Route 78 Corridor Director Allan Kosup.

The variable signs will display speeds at increments of 5 mph — they’re only advisory, so you won’t get a ticket for exceeding the suggested limit.

Crews set up and tested the variable speed limit signs earlier this week. A study on the program is set to begin on the week of March 19 and last about a month and a half.

The Caltrans study is part of a partnership with UC Berkeley. When the six-week trial concludes, Berkeley staff will analyze how drivers reacted to the signs and whether they kept one of San Diego’s most clogged interchanges from backing up.

Real-time results will be available here.