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'Tussle' over higher speed limits: Mayor Gray vs. D.C. council

Thursday - 12/20/2012, 3:29pm  ET

WASHINGTON - Speed limits on some major commuter routes in the nation's capital will remain higher at least until early 2013.

While the D.C. council recently passed a bill to lower the speed limits on several major roads, the council and Mayor Vincent Gray are at odds over who has final say in the decision.

There have been a lot of changes to speed limits and speed camera fines in the District over the last several weeks. First, Gray issued an emergency rule making decision that raised the speed limits on some major roads. They mayor also made changes to the fines for speed camera violations, lowering most but increasing the fine for those caught going more than 25 miles per hour over the limit.

On Tuesday, the D.C. council voted to override the mayor's orders and lower the speed camera fines lower than the mayor had set. The council also voted to overturn the mayor's changes to speed limits by removing his power to do so without council approval.

Gray acknowledged on NewsChannel 8 Thursday that the issue has gotten confusing.

"It's been quite a tussle. We'll work it through. They have their point-of-view, we have our point-of-view," Gray said.

In the first round of changes, Gray raised the speed limit to 50 mph on I-295 and to 35 mph on Benning Road between Oklahoma Avenue and I-295, according to John Lisle with the D.C. Department of Transportation.

In the second round of changes, Lisle confirms, Gray raised the speed limit:

  • On New York Avenue: The speed limit has been raised from 40 to 45 mph vehicles traveling east from Bladensburg Road to the Maryland state line, and from 35 to 40 mph in the opposite direction.
  • On Bladensburg Road: Between New York Avenue and the intersection with Mount Olivet Road and 17th Street NE, the limit has gone from 25 to 30 mph.
  • On Canal Road: The speed limit has gone from 35 to 40 mph between the Chain Bridge and the intersection with Foxhall Road, NW.
  • On North Capitol Street: Drivers are now be permitted to go 40 mph between Michigan Avenue and Harewood Road

A spokeswoman for council Chairman Phil Mendelson tells The Washington Examiner that the mayor usurped the council's authority to set speed limits and camera fines.

The higher speed limits and new fines will remain in effect until the legislation is signed into law and passes a required congressional review period, according to Gray's spokesperson, Pedro Ribeiro.

Ribeiro adds the mayor could decide to veto the legislation which would force the council to vote again on the changes.

Even if the mayor decides to sign the council's bill, the changes to the speed limits and fines would not be implemented until early next year. So for now, the higher speed limits will remain in effect.

WTOP's Mark Segraves contributed to this report.

Follow @SegravesWTOP and @WTOP on Twitter.

Some information from: The Washington Examiner,

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