Md. cameras catch thousands of work zone speeders

By Ashley Halsey III
Washington Post Staff Writer
Wednesday, January 20, 2010

Travel costs had to be recalculated by 8,745 drivers who were ticketed for speeding on Maryland interstates during the first six weeks that the state used speed cameras in highway work zones.

The first of the $40 speeding tickets were mailed out after the enforcement program was launched the week before Thanksgiving, and as year's end neared, an estimated $350,000 in fines had been issued.

The state isn't shy about advertising the use of the cameras. Huge signs warn drivers that the three highway work zones are "SPEED PHOTO ENFORCED." The cameras are in a pair of white SUVs that are repositioned in the work zones each day.

"We haven't had a lot of complaints," said Valerie Burnette Edger of the State Highway Administration. "There's nothing really earth-shattering about the numbers. That's less than 1 percent of the cars that travel those roads."

Last year, the legislature authorized the state to use speed cameras in work zones and local governments to use them in school zones.

Montgomery County and several of its municipalities had deployed them for several years, but elected officials elsewhere have been slow to endorse their use. Prince George's County Executive Jack B. Johnson (D) this month rejected widespread use of the devices.

After a warning period of several months, the state began using the cameras Nov. 16 in the three work zones, each about two miles long.

The closest to the District is on Interstate 95 just north of the Capital Beltway. The speed limit in that work zone, in Prince George's County between routes 198 and 212, has remained 65 mph, and the number of tickets issued by Dec. 29 -- 590 -- was the lowest of the three zones.

By contrast, 3,365 tickets were issued for a Baltimore County work zone where the limit has been reduced to 55 mph. That zone is on I-95 between Chesaco Road and Route 40, just south of the Baltimore Beltway (Interstate 695). And 4,790 tickets were issued for the work zone where the limit dropped to 50 mph. That one is on the Baltimore Beltway at the Charles Street interchange.

Edger said there were rumors in Annapolis that the legislature might consider amending the camera law to allow cameras' use in work zones only when construction crews were present. That idea was considered and rejected before the original bill was approved, she said.

"It's not just about protecting the workers," she said. "Work zones are a real challenge for drivers even when the workers are not there, because of the narrow lanes, Jersey barriers and other restrictions."

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