PORTLAND New variable speed signs are up and running on southbound Interstate 5 and Interstate 405 in Portland, offering commuters an advisory speed if there s a slowdown ahead.

The high-tech signs light up with a suggested speed limit to help traffic flow more smoothly and safely through congestion.

If we can get everybody to slow down a little bit when there s a crash or a stall, then we re doing a lot to make that road more efficient. Anything we can do to reduce the number of fender benders and secondary collisions is going to mean a smoother commute for everybody, said Don Hamilton,spokesman for the Oregon Department of Transportation.

Variable speed signs utilize hundreds of sensors in and above the roadway to gauge traffic speeds ahead, and the signs adjust accordingly.

As a commuter I think it s a really good idea because when you re speeding around corners and coming in fast and you don t know that the traffic is slowed down, it s safer for us to know in advance than for us to rear end somebody at high speed, said Portland resident Laura Wolfenson.

Seventeen signs lit up on southbound I-5 and I-405 Thursday, others in both directions on slowdown-plagued Highway 217 went into operation two weeks ago.

The total cost of all the variable speed signs, including software development and installation, was about $10 million. Most of the funds came from the federal government.

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