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By Sean Gorman September 16, 2011

Speedy acceleration to 70 mph

In unveiling his statewide transportation plan in July 2009, then-gubernatorial candidate Bob McDonnell vowed to pursue a measure allowing motorists to zip through the rural parts of Virginia a bit more quickly.

"As governor, Bob McDonnell will work with advocacy groups, such as motorist associations and highway safety groups, as well as law enforcement organizations to increase the maximum speed limit to 70 mph on rural stretches of highway statewide,” the McDonnell campaign said in a news release.

The campaign said there were 32 states with 70 mph speed limits in some areas, noting that 2006 legislation allowed the 70 mph limit on portions of Interstate 85 in Virginia.

McDonnell's promise was to increase the limit from 65 to 70 mph on less populous stretches of Interstates 95, 81,64 and 77 and some other roads.

McDonnell wasted little time acting on his campaign pledge.

Just a couple weeks after being sworn in as governor in January 2010, the General Assembly approved his plan to increase the speed limit on interstates running through the less populous parts of the commonwealth.

That law went into effect on July 1, 2010. That day, workers installed the first 70 mph traffic signs as a result of the law on a 27-mile stretch of I-295.

The governor set a deadline of Dec. 31, 2010, to post the other 70 mph speed limit zones covering 61 percent of Virginia's 1,119 miles of interstate.

On Dec. 3,  2010, McDonnell announced all the new speed limits had been posted one month before the deadline.

The last segments to switch over to the higher speed limit were I-77 as well as I-95 from Ashland to Spotsylvania and the southern section of I-81 from Christiansburg to the Tennessee line.

Traffic studies were done to ensure the speed limit wasn't raised in high crash areas, the governor said.

Records from the Virginia Department of Transportation show a flurry of sign postings in October and November.

That's a Promise Kept.

Our Sources

McDonnell for Governor, "McDonnell unveils comprehensive statewide transportation plan,” July 21, 2009.

Governor Robert McDonnell, "Governor McDonnell"s proposal to increase speed limit to 70 MPH passes House and Senate,”Feburary 2, 2010.

Govenor Robert McDonnell, "Governor McDonnell announces 70 mph speed limits on 680 miles of interstate,” October 20, 2010.

Governor Robert McDonnell, "VDOT completes 70 mph speed limit changes one month early,” December 3, 2010.

Email from Joe Vagi, Virginia Department of Transportation spokesman, Sept. 13, 2011.

Virginia Department of Transportation website, "Speed limits,” accessed Sept. 13, 2011.

Richmond Times-Dispatch, "Speed limit on rural Va. interstate increasing to 70 mph,” October 21, 2010.

Richmond Times-Dispatch, "70 mph on rural interstate"s approved,” Feburary 3, 2010.

Richmond Times-Dispatch, "House, Senate raising some interstate speed limits,” February 2, 2010.

The Free Lance-Star, "70 mph is I-95"s new legal speed limit between Ashland and Spotsylvania,”December 4, 2010

The News Virginian, "So far so good on 70 mph interstate change in Augusta,” July 3, 2011..

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