Maryland Investigates Raising Speed Limit on Inter-County Connector Toll Road

No judgments here, but simply a note to those who may be interested: The State of Maryland has been looking at raising the speed limit on the Intercounty Connector (ICC) near Burtonsville, MD. This may not seem like a serious issue, but some people may have mixed feelings about the recently announced study to increase speeds along the new section of highway. According to news reports, almost 40,000 vehicles traveled along the ICC during the first week or so of operation. And during that time the police apparently issued more than a thousand speeding tickets to motorists.

Of course, the benefit of this new route is that it essentially cuts travel time Laurel and Gaithersburg by nearly 50 percent. This is a boon to local commuters, but the roadway has also been rife with those who apparently wanted to make the trip in even less time, hence the spate of speeding citations along the 16 miles of what was previously known as Rte 200. Initially posted as 55mph, the toll road was reportedly designed for 60mph; this may be a problem since state officials say that raising the speed limit to 60 or more would be unusual.

As a Maryland personal injury lawyer, I understand how any increase in speed can lead to worse accidents. And while car, truck and motorcycle accidents cannot be eliminated, keeping speeds low or limiting posted speeds to a safer level can help to reduce the devastating effects of a severe traffic accident. Of course, any crash involving a commercial truck — such as an 18-wheeler big rig — can lead to severe injuries or even death to drivers and passengers of any smaller vehicle involved in a crash with that larger truck.

Whether one drives in Baltimore, Annapolis or Washington, D.C., you know that car and truck crashes happen with amazing regularity. What road safety engineers and state highway officials try to do is reduce the risks and maintain a safe environment for commuter and commercial traffic, while at the same time balancing safety with economic efficiency for improved commerce. As one might expect, this is not always and easy task.

As for the new ICC situation, state officials have said that much needs to be determined before making any decision on keeping or raising the speed limit. Since the roadway had been open for less than six months at the time of the news article we mention here, there was not much data with which to make a firm decision. However, not long after the opening of the ICC the state began to receive calls for an increase in the posted 55mph speed limit.

It would seem that any increase in the posted limit would be of only a marginal benefit, while the potential for increasing the severity of roadway crashes could only rise as well. Looking at the trade-off, as some have already stated, is not very enticing from a safety standpoint. For example, a 5mph increase to the ICC’s reported design speed of 60mph would save commuters just 90 seconds at best. Is that enough to merit a potential increase injuries or deaths? State officials will have to weight that as well.

As for the driving public, they seem to be voting with their wallets. In the span of just four months, police patrolling the new toll road stopped more than 2,000 vehicles and issued more than 1,200 speeding and other traffic-related violations. According to news reports, one driver was arrested and charged with drunken driving after being stopped going the wrong way.

State studies increasing speed limit on ICC,, March 22, 2012

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