In this paper, we investigate the use of variable speed limits for resilient operation of transportation networks, which are modeled as dynamical flow networks under local routing decisions. In such systems, some external inflow is injected to the so-called origin nodes of the network. The total inflow arriving at each node is routed to its operational outgoing links based on their current particle densities. The density on each link has first order dynamics driven by the difference of its incoming and outgoing flows. A link irreversibly fails if it reaches its jam density. Such failures may propagate in the network and cause a systemic failure. We show that larger link capacities do not necessarily help in preventing systemic failures under local routing. Accordingly, we propose the use of variable speed limits to operate the links below their capacities, when necessary, to compensate for the lack of global information and coordination in routing decisions. Our main result shows that systemic failures under feasible external inflows can always be averted through a proper selection of speed limits if the routing decisions are sufficiently responsive to local congestion and the network is initially uncongested. This is an attractive feature as it is much easier in practice to adjust the speed limits than to build more physical capacity or to alter routing decisions that are determined by social behavior.