Drivers who use Maryland’s Intercounty Connector could soon be saving a little travel time.
The state is increasing the speed limit on its newest toll road to 60 mph from the current 55 mph, the Maryland Transportation Authority said Monday.
The new speed limit will go into effect by March 31, and the state’s announcement comes as Maryland legislators are pushing to allow highway officials to raise speed limits to as high as 70 mph.
Drivers have asked the state to consider raising the speed limit on the ICC since it opened in 2011. Agency officials said Monday that an engineering study and a crash analysis confirmed that the speed limit can be raised safely.
“We are confident that a 60 mph speed limit is safe and justifiable based on the design speed and geometry of the roadway, as well as on the speed most motorists are comfortable traveling the ICC,” the authority’s executive secretary, Harold M. Bartlett, said in a statement.
The extra 5 mph isn’t going to cut a lot of time off ICC trips. With the speed limit increase, drivers traveling on the ICC from end to end could save about 1 ½ minutes of travel time, according to the agency.
Some state legislators say that is not enough.
“This is a roadway with limited access, it is a brand new roadway so there is not a lot of traffic, everything about it says that it should be posted at a higher speed limit,” said Del. Aruna Miller (D-Montgomery), who is co-sponsoring the bill that would give the state authority to raise speed limits to 70 mph on Maryland highways.
The bill seeks to establish a 70 mph speed limit on the ICC. Supporters say higher speed limits on the ICC would also address concerns about enforcement on the six-lane road, which connects Prince George’s and Montgomery counties. Some critics have complained that by keeping the speed limit at 55 mph, the state has increased the likelihood of being ticketed.
“We need to set speeds that are reasonable and realistic,” said Del. Neil Parrott (R-Washington County), a co-sponsor. “I think the higher the speed goes, the more people are going to use that road, because they are going to feel that they are driving the road in a comfortable speed and not have to worry about being pulled over.”
But state transportation officials say the road was designed to handle a speed limit of up to 60 mph. They say that they hope Monday’s announcement will satisfy the demand for higher speed limits.
“We are fairly confident that this announcement today will put that to rest,” authority spokesman John Sales said.
“We want to give (drivers) the best experience possible that they are paying for with their toll money, but at the same time we always have to err on the side of safety,” he said. “With the road being designed to hold a maximum of 60 mph, we didn’t want to do anything above that because then it would be unsafe and that could cause a lot of problems.”
Between 20,000 and 30,000 vehicles travel daily on the ICC, according to the authority.
The highway eventually will extend from Interstate 370 to U.S. 1. The 16 miles west of I-95 opened in November 2011, and the portion west of I-95 to U.S. 1 is under construction.