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A Context-Sensitive Street Classification Framework for Speed Limit Setting

Project Description

Historically, speed limit setting (SLS) procedures in many states have relied on driver-behavior-based approaches such as the 85th percentile speed. Researchers, however, have identified several shortcomings, including that drivers underestimate their speeds, issues with speed creep, and the lack of consideration for vulnerable road users. States can move towards a context-sensitive approach to SLS by developing a street classification framework that includes context. New Zealand provides a leading example with its SLS procedure that uses a street category framework based on the Movement and Place principle. We will develop a US street category framework for SLS using objective, publicly available datasets that capture functional classification (movement) and variables associated with vulnerable road user activity (place), such as land use mix, population density, job density, urban/rural designation, and transit access. We will perform a pilot study of 5 geographically diverse states to categorize the streets on their road networks based on the Movement and Place principle. The research will include a best practice literature review, GIS data preparation and linking, application of classification methods, validation of classification, and reporting.


Street classification framework dataset for 5 US States – This dataset will be a GIS polyline file of street segments with the assigned street category for purposes of SLS.


This research will support technology transfer as an available resource to the 5 pilot states as a starting point for revising speed-limit setting approaches and by providing a model for other states seeking an objective alternative to driver-behavior-based approaches. The framework will address a gap in current resources that limit jurisdiction's ability to use safety-centered approaches to setting speed limits.


06/01/2023 to 05/31/2024


University of California Berkeley (lead)

University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee

Principal Investigators

Julia Griswold

University of California Berkeley

ORCID: 0000-0002-1125-3316

Robert J. Schneider

University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee

ORCID: 0000-0002-6225-3615


Research Project Funding

Federal: $153,386

Non-Federal: $13,831

Contract Number


Project Number


Research Priority

Promoting Safety

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