Tuesday, December 11, 2018

SHA slashes River Road speed limit without public input, violates safety protocols

Sheriff Roscoe P. Coltrane would be proud
of how the MoCo cartel and SHA replaced
45 MPH speed limits signs with these new
35 MPH signs in the dead of night without
informing the public
After stealing the 2018 election in Montgomery County, the County political cartel has displayed an openly-authoritarian streak. In addition to moving swiftly on publicly-unpopular cartel priorities such as profiting the developer sugar daddies who funded their campaigns, officials are quietly attempting to implement new candidate filing requirements that would discourage progressive Democrats and minority party candidates from challenging them in future elections. But the only move that's attracted the attention of the general public so far took place late last week on River Road.

Under pressure from local officials, the Maryland State Highway Administration arbitrarily reduced the speed limit along River Road from 45 MPH to 35 MPH between Springfield Drive and the Capital Beltway. In doing so, the SHA not only made clear it has fully transitioned from a professional traffic engineering-driven department to a fully political office, but also illegally sidestepped the public process and safety protocols required for such a change.

Not a single SHA-sponsored public meeting was held on a proposal to reduce the speed limit to 35 MPH for the entire stretch between the Beltway and Westbard. That proposal was never even floated to the public. There had been discussions of either lowering the speed limit or installing speed cameras only near the River and Braeburn Parkway intersection, where three people died in a collision caused by a westbound driver who was going more than double the 45 MPH speed limit, at several public meetings hosted by members of the community near Whitman - not by the SHA.

The public was not privy to whatever discussions transpired privately over the last few weeks between local officials and the SHA. In fact, the SHA hasn't done squat yet on the actual project it had proposed for the intersection in question. So much for concern about safety.

Instead, the cartel and SHA went out late last week and pulled something out of Boss Hogg's Dukes of Hazzard playbook: quietly yanking out the 45 MPH signs and replacing them with 35 MPH signs - without telling anyone!

Traffic engineering protocols require that drivers be alerted to such a change, in advance and at the start of enforcement, via digital or traditional signage. Instead, the power grab appears to also be a money grab. Readers have reported that police are already pulling over and ticketing drivers in the new 35 MPH zone. Such tickets could be challenged in court because of the SHA's illegal, hazardous and reckless actions.

In addition, that stretch of River Road is engineered for a speed limit of at least 45 or 50 MPH. It is a divided highway with few cross streets west of Whittier Boulevard to the Beltway. Because of the design, much like the Palisades speed trap on MacArthur Boulevard in the District, it is very difficult to maintain 35 MPH (except during rush hour, in which one is often lucky to attain 35 along there). So it's a clear money grab for the County to place an artificially-low speed limit on that route, aiming to take longtime drivers who know the limit is 45 by surprise.

We expect this type of behavior from the Montgomery County cartel, in their developer-driven War on Cars and War on Pedestrians (in downtown Bethesda). But the SHA has brought shame to itself and Governor Hogan with this dangerous action on River Road. We expect SHA, like the old MCDOT before developers seized control of the department, to be professional arbiters who make judgments based on sound traffic engineering principles - not political favors.

Not surprisingly, the SHA declined to respond to inquiries made around 7:00 AM Monday morning regarding its violation of process and safety protocols on River Road. It has only commented publicly to media outlets that have not questioned them on those violations. I hope they'll respond today, and I will print their response should they provide one. For now, we are entering a dangerous time in Montgomery County and Maryland, where a wealthy and corrupt few have hijacked our public institutions, and have cut the taxpaying public entirely out of the very processes our community and society are based upon.

46 comments:

Anonymous said...

You're complaining that they implemented safety measures at the intersection where an entire family died?

Robert Dyer said...

5:02: Educate yourself - the whole point of the article is that they implemented a different change all the way out to the Beltway - NOT "at the intersection" where the crash occurred. They put forward a different plan publicly, a plan they've taken zero action on since.

Anonymous said...

BB reported this yesterday.

Robert Dyer said...

5:06: Old news from six months ago:

https://robertdyer.blogspot.com/2018/06/westfield-unveils-new-urban-style.html

Anonymous said...

How come you responded to a post several minutes after you deleted it?

Robert Dyer said...

5:12: No, they only reported that the speed limit had changed. I knew it had changed also. I tried to get answers from SHA, and they declined to respond as of this morning, so I'm printing the facts I know. No media outlet besides this one has raised these factual issues about the SHA violating its own procedures and safety protocols, and excluding the public from this decision entirely.

I'd like to raise the speed limit to 65 on I-270 - can I tell the SHA, and then they will go out and change the signs during the night? LOL. That's not the way things work - but that's how they did in this case. SHA now has to be held accountable, much like our County Council for the "lost" $7 million embezzled from the public under their supervision.

Baloney Concrete said...

So let me get this straight: You’re blaming the County council — er, “cartel” — for the actions of the State Highway Administration?

Anonymous said...

How come you didn't post this picture at the top of the article?

https://1.bp.blogspot.com/-rC6dSeA1YZE/W5eV102xWqI/AAAAAAABOgc/9msrsE_C6rcyNcdjJ5DntAWHtLQ2on0bQCLcBGAs/s1600/Larry-Hogan-MIX.jpg

Anonymous said...

Mr. Dyer, I noticed that your user profile is on Google Plus.

What do you plan to do after Google Plus is shut down four months from now?

https://www.cnbc.com/2018/12/10/google-shutting-down-social-network-sooner-because-of-new-security-bug.html

Robert Dyer said...

5:22: Yes - although it doesn't excuse the SHA for violating its own procedures and safety protocols. But the fact is, SHA opposed any sort of change to speed for years based on engineering principles, before now folding under political pressure or other coercion behind the scenes by the MoCo cartel-controlled elected officials.

Anonymous said...

I feel that lowering the speed limits from 45 to 35 would have a drastic effect on those that cause tragic accidents while driving 100+ MPH and keep them within the legal limits

Anonymous said...

What is this "Cartel"? Who are its members? Who is its leader? When was it started?

Anonymous said...

Robert. Bobby. Sweetie, honey, baby, doll. SHA isn't required to have public hearings or the like to change speed limits. By anybody. Read the law.

WTOP reported this was in the works back in October: https://wtop.com/montgomery-county/2016/10/md-leaders-push-to-reduce-river-road-speed-limit-after-fatal-crash/

And I'm not at all surprised their PIO didn't reply to you. This site used to be "media". Now it's just your rantings and photos of your 2 a.m. strolls. Really, get a grip.

Anonymous said...

The Montgomery Way

Robert Dyer said...

6:02: You're dead wrong again - SHA never proposed reducing the speed limit for the entire stretch from Springfield to the Beltway. Once again, you are reduced to outright lies.

This site IS the media - the only one asking the tough questions. I didn't see any pushback from WTOP to the SHA violations in their article. Who is the media again?

SHA does have to operate through a public process. No, they cannot just go out and change the speed limit. They also violated safety protocols by not posting the digital signs in advance alerting drivers of the change. In other words, they couldn't even follow their own laws and rules.

You are the one who needs to get a grip. This isn't Cuba or the Soviet Union.

5:49: You don't know your own bosses?

Anonymous said...

It is odd there was no advance warning. Even with the new signs up, usually they'll have orange banners saying new speed limit. Not in this case! Very strange.

Roald said...

Great report. I love when Dyer writes an Explainer piece like this, educating us.

Anonymous said...

As usual, keep up the great work, Robert. It definitely is fishy...why was there no warning or public discussion? Why didn't they post signs previously that it would change in the future? Why is there no digital signage after the fact? A lot of crazy stuff here. Please keep asking authorities these questions. It seems that no one else will!

Anonymous said...

8:59...9:00

LOL

Anonymous said...

"Not surprisingly, the SHA declined to respond to inquiries made around 7:00 AM Monday morning"

How come you waited a whole day (or more) to write about it?

And how did you contact them? If by phone, it would seem that no one would have been in the office at that hour. Did you follow up later in the day?

Anonymous said...

Speed limits are generally too high in the DC metro area especially when you factor in the very limited times that you can even drive at those speeds. 65 on the beltway? Are you kidding? With the no. of cars, lack of driving ability, and the fact that 65 means 75 to most people, I can state with 99% certainty that people would be maimed & die directly as a result of such a speed limit increase.
Now on River Road, especially in that area, I think 45 mph with speed camera enforcement would have done the trick but I’ll bet Dyer is against speed cameras because government bad.

Boyce Bowles said...

Let's be clear: Speed limits won't eliminate the rare tragedy that occurred on River with the gentleman driving at dangerous speeds or the lone intoxicated man popping opioids and tearing up a 25 mph neighborhood with his car. I do generally think folks should slow down as there are way too many accidents on River Road. Probably more do to distracted driving however.

11:50 AM Weekdays 495 and 270 are so jammed, speed limits are meaningless. It's stop and go.
Weekends, yeah, people do 65 on 270. I'm overrun by other vehicles if I stick at 55.

Anonymous said...

"Boyce Bowles" said...

"Let's be clear:"

LOL

Anonymous said...

"Montgomery County officials are quietly attempting to implement new candidate filing requirements that would discourage progressive Democrats and minority party candidates from challenging them in future elections."

Weird how you just drop this blind item in the middle of a completely unrelated article about traffic safety. Can you actually document this claim?

Is it possible for you to actually stick to a single topic in a single article?

Robert Dyer said...

3:23: Yes, I can document it - the Council and Montgomery County delegation are trying to ram a bill through in Annapolis that would require candidates to gather thousands of signatures in order to run for office.

It's very much on-topic in an article about MoCo and MD government displaying authoritarian tendencies after stealing the election.

11:35: My inquiry was submitted at 7 AM. SHA answered inquiries made later in the day without responding to mine, apparently because they saw I was asking probing and critical questions about their violation of protocols and process.

I waited to write about it because I wanted to have SHA's explanations for each point I brought up. Given that no other outlet is questioning SHA, it didn't matter that I waited 24 hours to bring you "the rest of the story."

11:50: I said 65 on 270, not the Beltway. Kind of like Walmart, you find 65 everywhere else in the world outside of Montgomery County. I use Route 50 at 65 all the time, and I don't see anyone dying there. If you're a bad driver, do us all a favor and turn in your license. But don't make the rest of us go slow on your account.

Anonymous said...

"The Council and Montgomery County delegation are trying to ram a bill through in Annapolis that would require candidates to gather thousands of signatures in order to run for office."

Again, not sure what this has to do with traffic safety on River Road - but isn't that already required? If not, then what were those nice people representing Nancy Floreen doing with those clipboards out of the Morella Library earlier this year?

"SHA answered inquiries made later in the day"

How do you know what time these other inquiries were actually made? And by what means did you make your own inquiry?

"I said 65 on 270, not the Beltway. Kind of like Walmart, you find 65 everywhere else in the world outside of Montgomery County"

Not sure what Walmart has to do with traffic safety on River Road, but there is one Walmart in Montgomery County and none in either Arlington County or the City of Alexandria.

Anonymous said...

Saith Basement Blogger Robert Dyer: "The SHA illegally sidestepped the public process and safety protocols required for such a change. Not a single SHA-sponsored public meeting was held on a proposal to reduce the speed limit."

Where in Maryland Law is any of this required?

Anonymous said...

But the WTOP story claims the reduction is near the HS, NO, it's the entire length of River Road from the Beltway in. North of the Beltway the speed is 40 on the 2 lane section. The road was designed as an arterial highway, 4 lane divided with limited access, with stop lights at all major intersections. It is not a residential street -- there are no homes with access to it. The tragic accident was not due to people traveling 45, but to an idiot flooring it up the hill regardless of the limit.

Anonymous said...

@ 5:44 PM - Journalists vs. some random hobo with a keyboard and a free blog.

Anonymous said...

River Rd (MD-190) is still a state road, correct? And, the SHA (State Highway Administration?) is still a state agency, correct? So, exactly why are you pinning responsibility on the "County Cartel" & not the Great (he is kinda large) Governor Hogan Administraion. If the SHA under his responsibility is "out of control" and running AMOK, why exactly should we trust him and his good friend to expand and privatize the Beltway & 270? And, why are the County's duly elected leaders suddently responsible for what you describe as the SHA's authoritarian/communist like actions?

Anonymous said...

And, BTW, the entire distance on River Rd between Springfield and the Beltway is about 3 miles and Whitman HS is roughly in the middle, so where talking about roughly 1.5 miles on either side of the high school. How close to a high school is considered close?

Anonymous said...

6:16pm Dyer, a real journalist and life long resident vs. some random college intern from Bumfuck U. playing journalist

Robert Dyer said...

8:40: The only stretch where a speed reduction was ever even discussed was between Wilson and Whittier. And nothing formal was put to the public even on that.

8:35: Very simple - MoCo officials have been hounding SHA for years to take actions that will inflict pain on drivers, including on River Road. SHA has always refused, citing engineering studies. So both the cartel and SHA share the blame in this.

4:26: Read it.

4:22: There are two Walmarts in Alexandria, dumbass.

Anna said...

2:37 Reading comprehension not your strong suit?

4:22 is correct. Neither are Arlington County or City of Alexandria. All in Fairfax County.

Anonymous said...

"MoCo officials have been hounding SHA for years to take actions that will inflict pain on drivers, including on River Road."

It is literally painful to drive 35 mph?

Anonymous said...

17 1/2 hours later, and still no answer...

"The Council and Montgomery County delegation are trying to ram a bill through in Annapolis that would require candidates to gather thousands of signatures in order to run for office."

Again, not sure what this has to do with traffic safety on River Road - but isn't that already required? If not, then what were those nice people representing Nancy Floreen doing with those clipboards out of the Morella Library earlier this year?

Anonymous said...

River Road near Whitman is _not_ a school zone. It was deemed too far away from the Whitman entrance to be considered one (and I agree).

The speed limit on the beltway (I-495) is 55 not 65.

Anonymous said...

8:47am Having artificially low speed limits is painful. You live in MoCo or Frederick? Be honest!

Anna said...

" to take actions that will inflict pain on drivers"

Seriously? How? With tasers? Rubber bullets? Are coffee-tables involved?
Will they enforce it by aircraft?

Anonymous said...

12:07pm lol...do you understand figurative language at all?

Anonymous said...

"Having artificially low speed limits is painful."

#FirstWorldProblems

Robert Dyer said...

9:58: I knew you were a carpetbagger, but I didn't know you were that clueless about the political process in MoCo. You do not have to collect signatures to get on the ballot if you the member of a political party, as of tonight. Nancy Floreen had to collect signatures because she ran as an independent.

She had the money and manpower to collect thousands of signatures in only a few days, which favors cartel-backed incumbents. Which is why the cartel is now trying to require candidates to collect signatures to get on the ballot.

Anonymous said...

Why not link to the legislation on petition requirements, Mr. Dyer?

Anna said...

1:38PM - if I didn't understand literal vs figurative, then I wouldn't have made my comment.

We've all seen the "Speed limit enforced by aircraft" signs and gotten a laugh thinking about a biplane shooting at the road in front of us to slow us down.

Anonymous said...

Also "Aggressive Driver Imaging". Are they aggressively imaging drivers? Or imaging aggressive drivers? Or aggressively imaging aggressive drivers?

AGcomments said...

I agree this is fishy. Good reporting robert.