Speed limit on U.S. 50 may go to 65 Glendening to say next week which roads will change

Safety his key concern

Faster thoroughfare could ease congestion on nearby Route 3

July 12, 1996|By Tanya Jones | Tanya Jones,SUN STAFF

An article on increasing speed limits on U.S. 50 in Friday's edition of The Sun in Anne Arundel stated incorrectly the federal government's position last year on increasing the limit on the highway.

Federal highway officials approved the increase from 55 mph to 65 mph on the 8.57-mile stretch between Interstate 97 and the junction with U.S. 301 and Route 3, but the State Highway Administration decided to delay the increase until construction along the road and a one-year study of the effect of higher speed limits on rural interstates were complete.

The Sun regrets the error.

Drivers on the stretch of U.S. 50 that cuts through Anne Arundel County soon could be zooming along at 65 mph -- legally.


Gov. Parris N. Glendening will announce higher speed limits for some Maryland roads next week, according to a State Highway Administration spokeswoman. And there is every chance U.S. 50 will be among them.

Last year, federal regulators turned down requests for higher speed limits on at least four highways, including U.S. 50, under rules no longer in effect.

"It's pretty obvious that we were going to revisit those," said Valerie Burnette Edgar, the SHA spokeswoman. She would not specify the roads that will get higher speed limits.

Glendening is to make his announcement Wednesday morning at the Annapolis park-and-ride lot just off U.S. 50.

The state raised speed limits from 55 mph to 65 mph on some rural interstate highways in July 1995. Opponents of the increase feared it would lead to more traffic deaths, but an SHA study has found that fatal accidents dropped on highways where the speed limit went up.

In addition, the speeds at which most people drove on those roads increased only slightly, while speeds on interstates that retained the 55 mph limit dropped, the study found.

Strict enforcement of speed limits helped keep traffic fatalities down and helped persuade the governor to increase the limit on other roads, state officials said.

"Safety has been the governor's principal concern through this whole issue," said Capt. Greg Shipley, state police spokesman.

The roads for which the state unsuccessfully sought higher speed limits last year were U.S. 50 between the Capital Beltway and Interstate 97; Interstate 70 between the Baltimore Beltway and U.S. 29; Interstate 81 in Washington County; and U.S. 13 on the Eastern Shore, Edgar said.

In November, Congress passed and President Clinton signed a law allowing states to set their own speed limits on interstates. The federal 55 mph speed limit had been in effect since 1974.

Del. Robert C. Baldwin, a Crownsville Republican, said that raising the speed limit on U.S. 50 would lure motorists headed for Baltimore off crowded Route 3 between Bowie and Millersville, easing traffic congestion.

"Let's get the speed limit up, and let's get the traffic off of Route 3," Baldwin said Wednesday at a meeting of a task force studying ways to ease Route 3 congestion.

A 65 mph limit would give drivers traveling from the Washington area to Baltimore more incentive to stay on U.S. 50 to the I-97 interchange instead of taking Route 3 north, he said. Task force members said they supported Baldwin's suggestion.

Del. Janet Greenip, a Crofton Republican, said the limit on U.S. 50 should remain 55 mph in the Annapolis area but that the section of highway west of I-97 is due for a change.

"I exceed the 55 mph speed limit," she said yesterday.

Pub Date: 7/12/96

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