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Speed cameras near UMd. will soon issue tickets 24/7

Wednesday - 7/16/2014, 6:04am  ET

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Three pedestrians have been killed crossing Route 1 in College Park this year. (WTOP File)

COLLEGE PARK, Md. -- Speed cameras near the University of Maryland will soon be working around the clock, a reaction to three pedestrian fatalities this year.

The College Park City Council unanimously approved a resolution from Mayor Andrew Fellows to extend the cameras' hours. The speed cameras currently ticket drivers from Monday to Friday from 6 a.m. to 8 p.m. The new measure allows College Park to keep the cameras on overnight and on the weekends.

"It makes sense to do them when there are the most pedestrians in the area and when the danger is the greatest. Most of the accidents that have occurred this year are late at night when the cameras are not active," says College Park Council Member Patrick Wojahn.

Maryland law says speed cameras can only operate in school zones on weekdays from 6 a.m. to 8 p.m. But those restrictions apply only to K-12 schools.

Also, the statute allows cameras to be deployed near "Institutes of Higher Education" -- in essence, colleges and universities in Prince George's County -- without the same time restrictions.

However, College Park decided to honor the time limits for other school zones because it did not want to confuse drivers. Next month, that will change.

"Our motivation is to really take dramatic steps, as quickly as possible, to reduce the chance of people driving too quickly through this area," says Fellows.

By Aug. 1, the State Highway Administration will lower the speed limit between Guilford Road and Berwyn Road from 30 to 25 mph.

The extended speed camera hours will take effect before University of Maryland students return to College Park in late August, meaning they will also enforce the lower limit.

In August, a temporary median fence will be installed on U.S. Route 1 between Hartwick and Knox Road.

A long-term solution to deter jaywalking will be installed in the fall, as will new pedestrian-friendly traffic signals at Hartwick Road, Fraternity Row and Paint Branch Parkway.

Those signals will serve a similar function to the HAWK signals in D.C.

"Because it's a college town, there are lots of pedestrians out late at night, sometimes not making the best decisions. The best rule of thumb is to drive as slowly as you possibly can up and down Route 1, because we want to make sure nothing bad happens in the future," says Fellows.

Three speed cameras are in place on Route 1, including one at Guilford Road and two at Greenbelt Road. College Park is also considering adding a fourth camera.

City officials are also considering whether the 24-7 operation should apply to the speed camera on Metzerott Road near St. Andrews Place. WTOP profiled the camera last summer, which is in a residential neighborhood about two miles away from main entrance to campus.

City officials say that a final decision on the Metzerott Road camera will come before the end of August.

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