- The Washington Times - Friday, January 10, 2003

The Metropolitan Police Department has successfully lobbied for a higher speed limit in front of Gallaudet University, where its speed cameras issued more than 19,000 tickets before the speed limit was lowered in November.
Police stopped using their mobile photo-radar cameras at Gallaudet on Florida Avenue NE between West Virginia Avenue and Fifth Street after the D.C. Department of Transportation lowered the speed limit from 25 mph to 15 mph two months ago. DOT officials have reinstated the 25 mph speed limit, and police have resumed their speed-camera enforcement.
DOT officials had designated the area in front of the university a school zone, according to a Dec. 24 letter from Metropolitan Police Chief Charles H. Ramsey to D.C. Council member Phil Mendelson, at-large Democrat. Gallaudet is a school for the hearing-impaired.
In his letter, Chief Ramsey expressed concern about whether 15 mph was an "appropriate limit." He also noted that 19,278 speeding tickets were issued in the area and that a 41-year-old man was killed nearby in November 2001, when the speed limit was 25 mph.
The police department "ceased enforcement until we could speak with transportation engineers that this particular roadway warranted a school zone limit of 15 mph," the chief wrote. "After reviewing the matter, [DOT Traffic Services chief Wil] DerMinasian agreed that the speed limit would be returned to a 25 mph zone."
DOT spokesman Bill Rice told The Washington Times that the 15 mph limit was placed in error and was immediately removed.
"We cannot determine if that location was ever designated as a school zone," Mr. Rice said.
Transportation officials are conducting an inventory of all signs and making changes where needed, Mr. Rice said, adding that the public should notify the DOT of any traffic signs that seem to be out of place.
No speeding citations were issued under the 15 mph limit, police officials said.
The Times first reported that D.C. officials had collected more than $20 million in the first 15 months of the city's photo-radar camera program and that Mayor Anthony A. Williams, who had said the cameras were only safety devices, said he wanted to expand the program because the city needs the money.
The automobile club AAA Mid-Atlantic has cited the mayor's admission that the city was using the cameras to generate revenue as one of the worst traffic-related developments of last year.
DOT and police officials expressed some confusion yesterday about whether a stationary speeding camera near Gallaudet was being used, but police spokesman Kevin Morison said, "The fixed camera has not been turned on.
"The issue came up when we were deploying the mobile units there using the 25 mph limit," he said.
Mr. Morison said that before the stationary camera is activated the police department will give residents a 30-day warning period, as required by department regulations.
In his letter to Mr. Mendelson, Chief Ramsey wrote that Mr. DerMinasian had said his agency would "place a speed message board at a location prior to the enforcement zone, which would not only advise motorists of the speed limit, but let them know how fast they are traveling."
Mr. Mendelson said several residents had complained to him about what they perceived as a "double whammy."
"Many were as confused as was I as to why you would put a camera in a school zone where the speed was already lowered," he said.
The complaints prompted Mr. Mendelson, a critic of automated traffic enforcement, to introduce legislation Tuesday that would require the police department to do a comprehensive traffic-speed assessment at any location selected for automated speeding enforcement.
"The bill would also require the city to re-evaluate the speeds at all locations where speed cameras are currently operating within 120 days of its passing," Mr. Mendelson said.

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