Governor Speed Higher speed limits: Glendening's increase in urban areas is unsafe and unconscionable.

July 20, 1996

WHAT COULD possibly be the justification for Gov. Parris N. Glendening's senseless increase of speed limits in more urban sections of Maryland's highway network?

The following are only a few random theories since we have no smoking gun, just smoking rubber.

1. The governor thinks it's a popular issue and, having won a squeaker his first time, is in need of a few populist positions.

Indeed, even on a day after the crash of TWA Flight 800 over New York and with the Olympics set to begin, Mr. Glendening's speed-limit changes were big news throughout Maryland.

2. It shows he's a "new Democrat."

Unable to deliver on a tax cut and supportive of gun control, Mr. Glendening hasn't had an easy time winning over conservative voters. What better way than to show folks he supports greater "freedom" by letting them drive faster.

3. He's a "gearhead."

This theory holds considerable promise. After all, Mr. Glendening is the mild-mannered professor type who last week, upon riding the new vehicle test course created by the maker of the Land Rover in Prince George's County, proclaimed it the "most fun I've had as governor." He also wore the glee of a kid on his birthday during last winter's blizzard, when he was able to tool about the deserted beltway with his son in a Desert Storm Humvee, provided by the National Guard.

4. He does not care about safety.

The governor vehemently professes otherwise, but his rash decision to further raise speed limits flies in the face of that claim. Upping the limit near the beltway and on Interstate 95 between Baltimore and Washington, an area with many exit and entrance ramps, means more mixing of merging vehicles with faster traffic. That worsens the "speed differential," just the opposite of what Mr. Glendening's road officials say is key to safer highways.

Also, his raising of the speed limit from 55 mph to 60 mph in some places and 65 mph in others will confuse the motoring public. And, he is not budgeting for additional highway patrols, say the Maryland State Police.

5. He wants to gamble and he doesn't want to wait for slot machines to come to Maryland.

Indeed, if Mr. Glendening is willing to bask in an improvement in highway fatalities a year after raising the limit on rural highways, he'd better be willing to answer for any increase in highway deaths on the eve of the next election year.

Pub Date: 7/20/96

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