Warning: Speed crackdown on Beltline
Police strictly enforcing 30 mph limit in construction zone

By Seth Burkett
sburkett@decaturdaily.com 340-2355

If it looks like police are using radar guns to shoot fish on a road lined with orange barrels, it's because they are.

Drivers who don't cut their speed to 30 mph in the Beltline- widening work zone will pay the price, said police and state troopers, who are monitoring the area intensely.

They aren't doing it for profit, said Sgt. Kevin Hunter of the Decatur police Traffic Division.

"It's going to be an 18-month project, and we've got to get people acclimated to going the proper speed for the safety of the construction workers," Hunter said.

"Hundreds of workers get killed on highways every year. I'd rather write somebody a ticket than have a worker get killed. This is 100 percent about safety," Hunter said.

Hunter said police write 30 to 35 tickets a day for speeding in the area between Gordon Terry Parkway and Cedar Street Southwest.

The cost to the speeder ranges from $150 to $190, depending on the speed.

Hunter said $110 of that amount represents the court cost. The actual fine for speeding is only $20, or $40 for 25 mph or more over the speed limit. The fine alone is doubled for speeding in the area when workers are present.

Sgt. Tim White of the troopers' Decatur post said he doesn't know how many tickets troopers are writing in the area, as all county tickets are submitted together.

The county fine schedule quoted speeding ticket prices of $135, or $155 for 25 mph or more over the speed limit. The court cost is $115 of those amounts. Again, the fine alone is doubled if workers are present. Beltline Road north of Gordon Terry Parkway is littered with bright orange signs warning southbound drivers of construction ahead. A reporter counted about 20 signs warning of the construction and speed reductions.

More postings, along with obvious signs of bottlenecks caused by lane closures and rows of striped orange-and-white barrels and signs, await drivers in the actual work zone south of Gordon Terry.

A similar array of signs alerts drivers headed north on the Beltline into the 2.4-mile road work area.

Workers are digging up medians in the northernmost portion of the zone, but reduced speeds extend south of Danville Road, meaning there's no construction in most of the 30 mph zone.

"People seem to be upset because we're issuing tickets where they're not working," Hunter said. "But it's a set 30 mph speed zone now, and they're working rapidly, digging up the median. We gave them about two weeks to get used to it before we started really enforcing it.

"The problem is, most people are of the opinion they can go 10 miles over the speed limit and not get a ticket. That's just not the case. But the speeding is so bad on the Beltline, the majority of them are going over 50 mph," he said.

Hunter also said the hazard to drivers caused by a 3- or 4-foot-deep trench at the edge of the roadway where the median used to be is another reason to reduce speed.