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Why hasn’t the speed limit on U.S. 421 near the Memorial Bridge been reduced?

Cecil Hester
The stretch of U.S. 421 between the Cape Fear Memorial Bridge and I-140. Google Maps

The stretch of U.S. 421 between the Cape Fear Memorial Bridge and I-140. Google Maps

Q. Why has the speed limit between the Cape Fear Memorial Bridge and the Interstate 140 connector on U.S. 421 not been reduced to 45 mph? There is heavy traffic and many business sites have traffic entering and exiting.

A. The N.C. Department of Transportation conducted a speed study on this section of U.S. 17/U.S. 421 that included evaluating the 85th percentile speed, road characteristics, existing conditions, and the surrounding environment, said George D. Eckart, assistant division traffic engineer with the department.

The 85th percentile speed is the speed at or below which 85 percent of the sampled vehicles travel. Most drivers operate their vehicles at a speed that is comfortable without strict enforcement regardless of the signage. Generally, the 85th percentile speed is used to determine the speed limit. This helps to avoid posting speed limits that are artificially low, which can become difficult to enforce. In conclusion, the analysis states that the speed limit of 55 mph appears to be appropriate at this time.

Generally, this section of US 17/ US 421 has a relatively low driveway density, good sight distance lines, paved shoulders, is generally straight, and the 85th percentile speed indicates that most motorists appear to be comfortable traveling at the current speed limit.

Like most roads in the N.C. DOT system, the department regularly monitors changes to existing conditions in an effort to ensure that the posted speed limits are appropriate. Citizens are encouraged to contact local law enforcement if they have any concerns about motorists driving at excessive speeds or in a reckless manner.


How do I go about requesting the speed limit on a road in Wilmington be changed?

Can roads have different speed limits depending on the direction of travel?

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