D.C. Council rebuffs Vince Gray on speed limits, cameras

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Local,DC,Transportation,Liz Essley,Vincent Gray

The D.C. Council overrode Mayor Vincent Gray's earlier orders to raise speed limits on some city streets and to lower fines for drivers caught speeding by traffic cameras.

In addition to rebuffing Gray, the council on Tuesday also issued a new rule that explicitly prohibits the mayor from ordering such changes again without council approval.

Gray on Monday issued an emergency order that would raise the speed limits on four D.C. streets by 5 mph each, including eastbound and westbound New York Avenue, Bladensburg Road, North Capitol Street and Canal Road. Speed limits on those streets now range from 25 mph to 40 mph.

A spokeswoman for Council Chairman Phil Mendelson, who pushed for the new restriction on the mayor's power, said Gray's actions usurped the council's authority to set speed limits and camera fines.

"The mayor's emergency actions kept prohibiting the council from thoughtfully putting its policies into place," the spokeswoman said.

The council's action, however, means that the new speed-limit signs that were already installed because of Gray's order will now have to be taken down and replaced with the old signs, said District Department of Transportation spokesman John Lisle. He said he had no estimate of how much that would cost the city.

The mayor's office on Wednesday blasted the council's actions, insisting that Gray acted within the powers of his office.

"It's very problematic. It creates a lot of confusion for folks," said mayoral spokesman Pedro Ribeiro. "You don't legislate speed limits. Speed limits are regulatory in nature. That's the way it works in other states."

DDOT had studied the roads on which Gray wanted to raise the speed limits -- all of them commuter routes with speed cameras -- to determine whether the speed limits could be raised there. But the council called for a new, comprehensive review of speed limits across the city.

The council also rejected Gray's order to lower speed-camera fines and voted instead for its own plan to reduce those fines, which were previously set as high as $250.

The most common speeding ticket, issued to those going 11 to 15 mph over the speed limit, had been $125. Gray wanted to lower it to $100. The council decided to lower it to $92.

lessley@washingtonexaminer.com

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Liz Essley

Staff Writer - Transportation
The Washington Examiner