- The Washington Times - Thursday, March 14, 2002

City officials are planning to assess and perhaps change speed limits throughout the District using information from a combination of sources, including photo-radar cameras.
"We plan to make [the photo-radar data] part of our analysis, along with the data we get from our smart machines," said Bill Rice, spokesman for D.C. Division of Transportation.
The so-called "smart machines" are devices that record the speed of vehicles on roadways and automatically compare those speeds with the posted speed limit. Transportation officials, who have only a few of the smart machines now, plan to buy and deploy more of the devices on some of the city's most heavily traveled streets in the next six weeks.
"Once we look at the results from the machines and the photo-radar database, it will tell us if we want to propose changing any speed limits," Mr. Rice said.
"The overall assessment will take anywhere from six months to a year before we can see any trends and decide on changes," he said.
Officials said the data from the photo-radar cameras which snap pictures of speeders are still too new for them to use in an analysis.
D.C. Council member Phil Mendelson called for the comprehensive speed-limit assessment during an Oct. 22 council hearing. In that hearing, the at-large Democrat criticized the District's use of photo-radar cameras, saying limited signs on some streets and varying speed limits on roads classified as highways make photo-radar enforcement unfair for drivers on some roads.
"These changes … are necessary so residents will have confidence in the [photo-radar] program," Mr. Mendelson said.
He said he had driven on different city streets and found many do not have enough speed-limit signs. In addition, some streets had speed-limit changes as many as three times in a short stretch of roadway, he said.
Metropolitan Police officials said they have reduced their photo-radar monitoring of highways in the city.
"In recent months, we have emphasized residential and neighborhood streets in our photo-enforcement program," said police spokesman Kevin Morison.
City police have stopped monitoring many of the highways due to safety concerns for officers and troublesome speed-limit changes, he added.
On New York Avenue NE, for example, police had stopped using photo-radar because many motorists expressed confusion about speed-limit changes in the construction zones.
"However, with recent crashes including fatalities on New York Avenue, we do plan to return to that enforcement zone, as well as others where there have been serious speeding-related crashes in recent months," Mr. Morison said.
D.C. police already have increased their photo-radar monitoring on Interstate 295 because of a high number of crashes.


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