By KAUSTUV BASU
6:02 PM PST, January 24, 2013
A bill introduced by Del. Neil Parrott, R-Washington, in the current session of the General Assembly seeks to give the State Highway Administration the ability to raise the maximum speed limit on interstates, state expressways and some other highways to 70 miles an hour.
Parrott, who is a Republican, is a primary sponsor of the bill with Del. Aruna Miller, a Democrat from Montgomery County.
“This bill is going to increase the cap. So the State Highway [the SHA]… if they do a speed study … will have the flexibility to raise the speed limits,” Parrott said.
The maximum speed limit for Interstates and expressways in Maryland is currently 65 mph.
The bill also seeks to raise the speed limit on the Intercounty Connector, also known as Md. 200, to 70 mph from the current 55 mph. The toll road connects the Interstate 270 in Montgomery County to Interstate 95 in Prince George’s County.
According to the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety, setting speed limits has traditionally been the responsibility of the state.
But in the mid-1970s, Congress established a national speed limit of 55 mph.
Part of that limit was changed for rural interstates in 1987, and the restrictions were completely lifted in 1995, according to the IIHS website.
But Maryland, Parrott said, still has a maximum speed limit of 65 mph while 35 other states have speed limits of 70 mph.
Both Parrott and Miller are traffic engineers, one reason why they are interested in the issue, they said.
The bill, if it passes, would automatically raise the speed limit on Md. 200. But for other interstates and highways, the Maryland State Highway Administration would decide the maximum speed limit based on local factors.
“But they would have the option to raise it to 70 mph, which they could not do before,” Parrott said.
Parrott said the bill was an effort to make the maximum speed limit in the state more realistic.
“Right now, you can go to West Virginia, Virginia… anywhere south of us it is 70 mph,” Parrott said.
States such as Pennsylvania and New Jersey have a maximum speed limit of 65 mph for rural areas and 55 mph for urban areas when it comes to interstates.
Washington County commuters who use Md. 200 would also benefit from the increase in the speed limit, Parrott said.
“We have commuters [from Washington County] who use the ICC [Md. 200] three or four times a week,” he said.
Miller, who is a legislator from Montgomery where Md. 200 is partly located, said that her constituents have complained about the 55 mph speed limit on the toll road.
“Keeping speed limits unrealistically low causes more crashes. It is counter-intuitive,” she said.
A competing emergency bill, introduced by Sen. Jennie Forehand, D-Montgomery, is seeking to increase the speed limit on Md. 200 to 60 miles per hour.