August 7, 2017 Published in Other News, Traffic & Transportation

Day Of Reckoning Comes For Speeders In Capital Beltway Work Zone During Bridge Replacement Project

The “days of grace” are over, and speed cameras will be flashing bright and early Monday morning, and throughout the next 36 months, in work zones on the inner loop and outer loop of the Capital Beltway. If history is an unerring guide, lead-footed motorists zipping athwart work zones and near highway work crews at excessive speeds will end up paying millions of dollars in speed camera fines. Each citation is $40. Statewide, the work zone speed camera program generated as much as an estimated $103.1 million in fine revenue since the inception of the program, notes AAA Mid-Atlantic.

It’s an object lesson for drivers caught on camera while speeding flagrante delicto in the work zones until spring 2019. odds are two-fifths of those ticketed will receive multiple citations in due time.

Be forewarned. The 21-day-warning period ended overnight in the work zone near the Capital Beltway bridge over Suitland Road. Highway engineers have classified the bridge as “structurally deficient,” and replacing it will take years. The ongoing ticketing will likely last just as long. Each year, almost ten million motorists will travel through the work zone with a posted 55 mph speed limit, notes AAA Mid-Atlantic.

To protect highway workers and alert drivers that speed cameras are present, state officials have installed as many as 20 speed-enforced warning signs that are hard to miss. Astonishingly, despite the warnings, four out of ten motorists ticketed in highway work zones in Maryland are repeat scofflaws. Vehicles marked with the SafeZones logo and equipped with portable electronic speed monitoring devices are already deployed along the work zone by the Maryland State Police  and the Maryland State Highway Administration.

“The very lives that motorists save in highway work zones may be their own,” explained John B. Townsend II, AAA Mid-Atlantic’s Manager of Public and Government Affairs. “That is the overarching purpose of the Maryland SafeZones program. Six persons have died in work zone crashes in Maryland to date in 2017. In the past two years, 12 deaths have occurred in work zones in the state, six in 2015 and six in 2016. Work zone fatalities in the state dipped from an average of 11.3 deaths a year from 2006-2008 to an average of 6.5 work zone deaths a year from 2010 to 2013. It is a 46% reduction in work zone deaths in the state.”

Nationwide, of those killed in work zones are drivers or their passengers. The aging I-495 overpass bridge on Suitland Road gained a measure of notoriety in February 2015. During the afternoon rush hour a chunk of concrete from the overpass suddenly gave away and fell upon a vehicle driven by a grandmother. Although she was unharmed, pieces of the bridge shattered her windows. In the aftermath Maryland ordered “immediate inspections of two dozen” bridges, a move applauded by AAA Mid-Atlantic.

At the stroke of midnight, Maryland officials started issuing tickets to speeders through the work zones while workers replace two bridge along northbound and southbound I-95/I-495 in Prince George’s County.  Better get used to it. The dual bridge replacement project in both directions of the mainline of I-495 is expected to take three years. Average daily traffic volume is 187,000 vehicles. With Air Force One taking off or landing overhead, the tickets will fly aplenty. To combat reckless and aggressive speeding in highway construction zones, and for the safety of all drivers and construction workers, Maryland officially implemented its work zone speed enforcement program on July 1, 2010. The state’s SafeZones speed enforcement camera program has issued millions of speed camera violations to flagrant speeders traveling 12 miles per hour or more over the posted speed limit in dozens of work zones around the state since then, cautions AAA. 

Now time-tested, Maryland’s SafeZones program got off to an auspicious start. In the initial three-year of phase of operation, from 2011 to 2013, Maryland meted out 1,296,824 highway construction zone speed camera tickets to motorists riffling by at a high rate of speed in activated work zones, according to an analysis of Maryland SafeZones data by AAA Mid-Atlantic. To the chagrin of ticketed motorists, in dollars and cents, those violations carried a face value of $51,872,960 in potential fines during those three years, eventually surging to an estimated $103.1 million in revenue through Fiscal Year 2016, calculates AAA Mid-Atlantic.

  • Speeders were on the receiving end of 529,367 highway construction zone speed camera tickets across Maryland in 2011, and they were fined $21,174,680 after allegedly committing speeding penalties in work zones, notes AAA Mid-Atlantic. Yet the state only collected $18.4 million in Fiscal Year 2011.

  • During the following year, Maryland meted out 417,691 work zone speed camera citations to motorists traveling at least 12 mph over the posted speed limit in sundry work zones around the state in 2012, with a potential value of $16,707,640, if paid on time.

  • Then the law of entropy exerted itself as highway construction zone speed camera citations dipped to 349,766 violations statewide during 2013, with Maryland work zone speed camera program generating $16.4 million in revenue, notes AAA Mid-Atlantic.

  • FY 2015 saw a watering down of fines as “about $13.3 million was collected from citations generated by work zone speed control systems, compared to $14.9 million in fiscal 2014 and $16.4 million in fiscal 2013,” explains the Department of Legislative Services for the Maryland General Assembly.

  • Maryland issued “2.35 million highway work-zone speed camera citations” in the period between 2010 to 2015, with “39 percent” of the speed camera tickets going to “repeat violators,” according to a 2016 investigation by The Wall Street Journal.

  • Even so, work zone speed camera tickets issued in Maryland from 2010 through 2015 carried a face value of $94,000,000 in fine revenue, calculates AAA Mid-Atlantic.

  • “About $9.1 million was collected from the payment of citations generated by work zone speed control systems in FY 2016,” according to the Maryland General Assembly Department of Legislative Services. It notes, “Revenues have generally decreased as compliance has increased.”

Positioned near concrete barriers and orange cones, work zone speed enforcement cameras are not new to the Capital Beltway in Maryland, warns AAA Mid-Atlantic. In late 2011, the Maryland State Police and the Maryland SHA deployed the first-ever speed cameras on the Capital Beltway in both Montgomery and Prince George’s counties, including in the work zone at the Northwest Branch Bridge construction site from University Boulevard to New Hampshire Avenue in Silver Spring; and in the work zone project from the D’Arcy Road bridge to the Branch Avenue (Route 5) interchange in Prince George’s County. During 2011, the speed cameras in the Northwest Branch Bridge project work zone generated 31,000 speed camera citations in the five-month duration from August to December of that year, calculated AAA Mid-Atlantic.

AAA urges motorists to use caution and drive safely when approaching and driving through work zones as most people injured or killed in work zone crashes – approximately four out of every five – are drivers or passengers.

“By simply slowing down and obeying the posted advisories, motorists can help prevent work zone crashes and keep themselves, their passengers, and roadway construction workers safe,” said Townsend. “By following these rules, they can avoid those dreaded work zone speed camera tickets.”

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