Maryland considers ICC speed increase

Maryland considers ICC speed increase

State lawmakers who represent Montgomery County are asking the Maryland Transportation Authority to increase the speed limit on the Intercounty Connector—from 55 to 65 miles per hour.

The MDTA says it is considering a study of the proposal, but it's unclear when such a study would happen.

Drivers around Silver Spring say, if the speed limit on the Intercounty Connector was higher than 55 miles per hour, they would use it more often.

“I'd probably use it more often than... I hardly use it. It'd be an incentive to drive down the ICC,” said driver Steve Carter.

But other drivers say anything faster than 55 is not safe.

“There is a lot accidents, there is a lot of death now so no, I'm not agree about that,” said driver Nuha Hadad.

State Senator Nancy King is one of the local lawmakers pushing for an increase.

"I get on that road. It's wide open, smooth, clear. There's no traffic... A comfortable speed limit would be 65 (mph)... It's hard to go 55 (mph) on that road,” King said.

The MDTA points out that the ICC was designed as a state route, not following interstate standards like I-95. As such, any increase in the speed limit would require an engineering study following state and federal standards—exploring topics like geometric design, actual usage and safety history. Because the ICC has been open for less than a year, that safety history is limited.

The Transportation Authority also notes, even if drivers travelled the full 16-mile length of the ICC, going 60 miles per hour, that would only shave off about one and a half minutes.

Meanwhile, some nearby residents who have long opposed the ICC say they hear a constant roar of traffic on the roadway, especially at rush hour. They worry about the noise created by 18-wheelers shifting gears at increased speeds.

But, in residential areas, Senator King says sound barriers line the ICC, so that should not be an issue. She also adds that her office has received calls and emails from both drivers and residents who support her effort to raise the speed limit.

In response to residents’ concerns that an increased speed limit would increase roadway noise, Ray Feldmann, Senior Communications Manager for the Intercounty Connector Project, issued a statement saying: “Your question concerning the relationship between an increase in the speed limit and a corresponding increase in traffic noise was raised several times at community meetings during the planning phase of the ICC project."

"The bottom line is that increasing the speed limit should not result in an increase of noise levels. In general, noise increases with increases in traffic volumes, not traffic speed," Feldmann said in the statement.

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