Letter to the Editor: Raising ICC Speed Limit An 'Insane Idea'

A letter to the editor about raising the speed limit on the Intercounty Connector and other state highways.

The following is a letter from Fred Flaharty, a Montgomery County school bus driver, in regards to a late January story about the Intercounty Connector potentially having a 70 mph speed limit:

The bill that would raise the maximum speed limit on interstates and expressways statewide from 65 to 70 miles per hour is an incredibly BAD IDEA!....no...INSANE idea. As a regular daily driver of the ICC both in my personal car (twice per day) and as the driver of a Montgomery County school bus (4 trips per day) I protest in the strongest possible terms this proposed raising of the speed limit on the ICC. There are several important reasons for this the first of which is the road was never designed for faster speeds as are interstate highways. As is the case currently with the 55 mph ‘limit’ most vehicles exceed it by the supposed allowable 12 mph which means that those same drivers would be free to hit 77 or 82 mph respectively if the limit were raised to 65 or 70 mph. All this on a road designed for 55 mph. Driving 55-60 mph I witness countless cars, trucks and buses fly past me doing between 75 and 80. Merging or changing lanes would become more dangerous. This road was conceived and built under the guise of being environmentally designed and ecologically friendly. I ask you, is raising the speed limit environmentally friendly? I will tell you now that were I to have a crash on a road that the government knew wasn’t designed for high speed traffic I’d be in court with a lawsuit as soon as I was able. There are far more important issues to be addressed in government these days and I suggest the sponsors of this bill get to work rather then bowing to the requests of people that would gain a few short minutes on their drive as opposed to keeping the roads safe at their correctly posted and enforced speeds. 55 mph is a limit drivers should learn to live with, be safer with, be more in tune with the environment and stop whining about the 3 to 4 minutes they may spend on a complete trip on the road. 


Fred Flaharty, MNCPPC Planning Dept. (Retired) Montgomery County Transportation Dept. School Bus Operator

Olney, MD

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Jim Tulley March 07, 2013 at 12:13 PM
I wish some people would understand that not everyone cares about the grammatical structure of the English language as much as you may. The comments are a soapbox for discussion. There are no laws requiring the use of proper grammar in discussion. Get off of your high horse.
NR March 12, 2013 at 05:35 PM
I agree, if drivers can't handle 65 on an open highway, they shouldn't be driving.
Duke Ganote April 29, 2013 at 10:20 AM
The engineering report asserts a "design speed" of 60 mph without defining the term. Engineers know that "operating speeds and even posted speed limits can be higher than design speeds without necessarily compromising safety." Indeed, roads "often appear adequate for speeds far above the designated design speed". ICC drivers recognize this intuitively with average speeds exceeding 60 mph. http://safety.fhwa.dot.gov/speedmgt/ref_mats/fhwasa10001/#f18 Clearly the speed limit should be 65 or 70 mph! The report's own reference (link above) says "Speed limits are only meaningful if the majority of motorists comply voluntarily and that occurs only if a speed limit is reasonable. Maryland's rural interstate fatality rate in 2009 was 0.06 -- FAR FAR lower that the all-road rate of 1.07 deaths per 100 million travel miles. Why? Simple physics! Traffic engineers very effectively adapt roads for higher speeds by eliminating opposing traffic, crossing traffic, and roadside hazards. Furthermore, "design speed" is a MINIMUM specification for features like curvature and sight visibility; the "as built" curves may FAR exceed minimum requirements. Bluntly, everyone is safer on the ICC than almost any other road-- yet 99% of the commentors are shockingly unaware of where the real road risks are!
Bill Redmond April 29, 2013 at 06:30 PM
Duke, I'm not a civil engineer but I would have expected the "design speed" to be higher than the intended posted limit to allow a safety margin for those who insist on exceeding the posted speed. I consider myself a competent driver but my impression is that the safety margin on the portion of the ICC between Shady Grove Rd. and Redland Rd. is pretty small; those curves are pretty tight at 60mph, especially during those few times when the road is more busy.
Duke Ganote April 29, 2013 at 10:30 PM
The traffic engineer who pointed out the references to me assured me that a nominal "design speed" usually has a wide safety margin. Sharper curves should be (as the ICC engineering report stated) have specific warning signage.


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