Date of Award


Degree Name

MS in Civil and Environmental Engineering


Civil and Environmental Engineering


Robert Lawrence Bertini


Variable speed limit (VSL) systems are important active traffic management tools that are being deployed across the U.S. and indeed around the world for relieving congestion and improving safety. Oregon’s first variable advisory speed limit signs were activated along Oregon Highway 217 in the summer of 2014. The variable advisory speed system is responsive to both congestion and weather conditions. This seven-mile corridor stretches around Western Portland and has suffered from high crash rates and peak period congestion in the past. VSL systems are often deployed to address safety, mobility and sustainability related performance. This research seeks to determine whether the newly implemented variable advisory speed limit system has had measurable impacts on traffic safety and what the scale of the impact has been. The research utilizes a before-after crash analysis with three years of data prior to implementation and around 16 months after. Statistical analysis using an Empirical Bayes (EB) approach will aim to separate the direct impacts of the variable advisory speed limit signs from the long term trends on the highway. In addition, the analysis corrects for the changes in traffic volumes over the study period. Three data sources will be utilized including Washington County 911 call data, Oregon incident reports, and official Oregon Department of Transportation crash data reports. The analysis results are compared between data sources to determine the reliability of 911 call data as a proxy for crash statistics. The conclusions should be able to provide an indication of whether variable advisory speed limits can provide increased safety along high crash corridors.