After complaints, speed limit reduced on stretch of Massachusetts Ave. in Md.

The speed limit has been reduced from 35 mph to 30 mph along a busy stretch of Massachusetts Avenue in Montgomery County, Maryland, between Sangamore Road and Westmoreland Circle.

Erich Florence, deputy district engineer for the Maryland State Highway Administration’s District 3 office, told WTOP the change came after a review of speeding patterns and years of complaints about speeding along the four-lane stretch of the road.

The X account Cordell Traffic was the first to report the change in speed limit.

The agency, Florence said, initiated a study of the stretch of Massachusetts Avenue in 2019, but the pandemic delayed any changes. It launched a spot-speed study, in which engineers used radar guns or speed strips to determine speeding patterns in both directions.

Then, the agency used the 85th percentile, which Florence said is the most popular speed, to determine what changes in speed limits should be made.

Changes are generally made in increments of 5 mph, Florence said. It’s rare for there to be a 10 mph change, whether it be an increase or decrease.

“A lot of this feedback we received was just basically speeding,” Florence said. “Speeding because we have several schools in the area, several businesses, we have several marked crossings.”

Over the last three years, Florence said many people have been using the agency’s online feedback system to complain about speeding along the stretch of Massachusetts Avenue in Maryland.

Since the speed limit was changed, which Florence said happened within the last month, the agency hasn’t received any feedback. However, he said the speed limit has been changed with success on other major roadways, such as Georgia Avenue.

The agency often uses what it calls a “post-study analysis” to determine whether a speed limit change is altering driving behaviors, Florence said.

“We make sure the speed limit matches the character and the type of the roadway,” Florence said.

Elizabeth Dietel, who lives nearby, said she and her neighbors had been advocating for a change to the speed limit for several years, with little success. But when a new neighbor, who walked her kids to local day cares, recently expressed similar concerns, she started the process of calling for a change again.

Many drivers, Dietel said, speed up when driving down the stretch of Massachusetts Avenue.

“My street is the first street after the circle, and I have to make a left turn to get to my house,” Dietel said. “I’m surprised I haven’t been rear-ended, because cars come zooming around and switch lanes to avoid me. It’s an accident waiting to happen.”

There’s heavy traffic during the morning and evening rush hours, Dietel said.

“I don’t know whether [the speed limit change] is going to help, but it’s a start,” she said.

Scott Gelman

Scott Gelman is a digital editor and writer for WTOP. A South Florida native, Scott graduated from the University of Maryland in 2019. During his time in College Park, he worked for The Diamondback, the school’s student newspaper.

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