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Speed limit on Md. highways reduced to 45 mph

Md. highway official: 'Don't travel unless you absolutely have to'

October 29, 2012

Maryland officials have lowered the speed limits on interstates and U.S. highways in Maryland to 45 mph, effective immediately and until further notice, and are encouraging people to stay home as during the upcoming height of the storm as conditions continue to deteriorate due to Hurricane Sandy, state officials said Monday afternoon.

The speed limit was lowered because of the dangerous combination of speed and high winds, according to the announcement that was released by state officials shortly after 3 p.m. Monday. The decision to lower the speed limit was made by Maryland State Police, Maryland State Highway Administration, and state transportation authority officials.

The reduced speed limit affects emergency responders, utility crews, relief workers, and other drivers, the release states.

“For all members of the general public, we can’t stress enough the importance of staying off the roads as this unprecendented storm strikes Maryland,” Maryland State Highway Administrator Melinda B. Peters said in a prepared statement.

“Stay home. There are more than 12,000 people responding along state and toll roadways. By staying home you allow them, utility crews and police to do their jobs,” she said.

Hurricane Sandy was affecting much of Maryland on Monday morning and will continue to cause road conditions to deteriorate throughout the day as Sandy moves closer to landfall, according to the state highway administration.

Eastbound U.S. 50 entering Ocean City remained closed before 7 a.m. Monday morning, the SHA said in a news release.

With the forecast calling for heavy rain bands and winds expected to gust in excess of 60 mph, the SHA said it has more than 640 State Highway Administration (SHA) crews active across Maryland. The SHA said an additional 1,500 operations personnel are prepared to respond to high water, downed trees and traffic signal issues.

In addition, a blizzard warning has been issued in Garrett County in far western Maryland, effective Monday night into Tuesday.

“Today is one of those days to follow the advice — don’t travel unless you absolutely have to,” said State Highway Administrator Melinda B. Peters.

Peters noted that a new law in Maryland addresses what motorists are to do if they encounter traffic signals that aren’t working.

“A new law enacted Oct. 1 mandates drivers must treat intersections with non-functioning traffic signals as four-way stops.  Do not assume you or the other driver has the right-of-way; make eye contact if possible and proceed safely through the intersection.”

The SHA said that in response to the storm:

• SHA crews are monitoring and patrolling state roadways. Equipment, including saws and chippers, high-water signs and sandbags are at the ready. Providing real-time traffic information and storm-related road closures through Maryland’s 511 phone system and at WWW.MD511.ORG as well as www.roads.maryland.gov where you can click on CHART to see live traffic cameras.

• It is programming overhead Variable Message Signs along major roadways and Traveler Advisory Radios to inform motorists of crashes, delays and route diversions. However, smaller routes prone to flooding might not be listed since they not be reported. Just because a road isn't listed as problematic on these resources, conditions change quickly, so use caution and allow extra time regardless.

Additional tips for motorists can be found on SHA’s website at www.roads.maryland.gov or on MEMA’s website at www.mema.state.md.us.

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