The speed limit on Maryland's Intercounty Connector will be raised from 55 mph to 60 mph March 31, state officials announced Monday.
The move comes after a months-long engineering study and drivers' complaints that the speed limit was too low on the toll road, which opened in November 2011 and stretches from Interstate 370 in Montgomery County to Interstate 95 in Prince George's County. The agency in charge of the road predicts the new limit will save drivers 1.5 minutes of travel time if they're traveling the entire 18-mile length of the highway.
"I think we heard from our customers that they wished that the speed limits were a little bit higher, but we knew we needed a good year of data under our belt before we could make that decision," said Maryland Transportation Authority Executive Secretary Harold Bartlett. "I am absolutely sure it will be safe."
State officials said they combined an engineering study with crash data to determine that the speed limit was safe to raise. The toll road was originally designed to have a 60 mph speed limit, leading some to theorize that the state was keeping the speed limit artificially low to rack up ticket revenue.
Between 25,000 and 33,000 vehicles used the road every weekday in December, when 83 drivers received tickets for speeding and 114 received warnings on the toll road.
"We wanted to err on the side of caution. We wanted to have a lot of experience on how the highway was operating under the traffic volume, and while it was designed for 60, we just wanted to take our time getting there," Bartlett said.
Maryland Del. Nic Kipke, R-Pasadena, said he would like to see the speed limit to be raised higher, to 70 mph.
"When I've driven the ICC, it seems there's a lot of police presence all over the road, but there's not a lot of cars," Kipke said. "I would have preferred to see the limit go up to 65 or 70, but I'm glad to see us moving in the right direction."
Maryland Chamber of Commerce President Kathy Snyder, who uses the road for work, said she was also glad the speed limit was being raised.
"Yay!" she said. "It is a fast road, and if you're not on cruise control, you can certainly go over the speed limit very easily."
Bartlett said the limit is not likely to go any higher, since the highway would have to be rebuilt and straightened out to safely raise the speed limit.
Maryland officials say they need until March 31 to install new signs for the higher speed limit.