Maryland bills would authorize 70 mph speeds

By Keith Goble, Land Line state legislative editor | 2/6/2013

Multiple bills at the Maryland statehouse could result in higher speeds along certain roadways around the state.

Delegate Neil Parrott, R-Washington, and Delegate Aruna Miller, D-Montgomery introduced a bill that would authorize interstate and state expressway speeds to be increased from 65 mph to 70 mph. Speeds on the Intercounty Connector would also rise from 55 mph to 70 mph.

The ICC is an 18.8-mile tolled highway extending from Interstate 270 in Montgomery County to I-95 in Prince George County. The toll road, which the majority opened in late 2011, was designed for a 60 mph speed due to safety and environmental concerns.

Since then, critics have called for a speed increase on the limited-access highway.

“By its definition, and by its design, it should accommodate faster speeds,” Miller told House Environmental Matters Committee members this week.

Parrott testified that the state would be well served to adopt the 85th percentile speed rule. The method is used to set speed limits at or below the speed at which 85 percent of traffic is moving.

Parrott said that speeds on the ICC are “artificially low.” He cited a recent ICC study that found 85 percent of vehicles on the toll road exceed the 55 mph posted speed by about 10 mph.

Maryland Transportation Authority spokesman Patrick Fleming told the panel that his agency opposes the change.

“Speeds should be set through engineering analysis and not legislation,” Fleming said.

He also said that the toll road wasn’t designed for 70 mph speeds. Instead, MTA announced Monday, Feb. 4, that the ICC speed limit will be increased to 60 mph. The change will take effect March 31.

The change adopts the rule sought by Sen. Jennie Forehand, D-Montgomery. She offered her own bill, SB206, to increase speeds on the toll road from 55 mph to 60 mph.

Parrott said that the 5 mph speed bump is a step in the right direction, but it doesn’t go far enough.

His bill – HB223 – would leave the final decision for interstate and expressway speeds to the State Highway Administration.

The House committee didn’t vote on the bill.

One more bill would alter speeds on I-68. Sponsored by Sen. George Edwards, R-Garrett, SB298 would increase the speed limit from 65 mph to 70 mph.

The bill is awaiting consideration in the Senate Judicial Proceedings Committee.

To view other legislative activities of interest for Maryland, click here.

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