SHA denies Berlin's request to lower speed limit on Route 113
By Charlene Polk
BERLIN -- Despite a recent request from the mayor and council, State Highway Administration officials said they would not lower the speed limit on Route 113 through Berlin.
In a letter to Berlin Mayor Tom Cardinale, SHA District Engineer Donnie Drewer said that SHA would not lower the speed limit on the highway through Berlin beyond its current 50 mph.
According to the letter, "A thorough review of our speed zoning policies and guidelines indicates that a further reduction to the posted speed limit is not practical and may have an adverse affect on overall safety by increasing the travel speed differentials through town. History has shown us that the broader the range in vehicle speeds, the higher the accident rate tends to be."
Drewer recommended instead that an aggressive speed enforcement campaign be coordinated with the Maryland State Police and the Worcester County Sheriff's Office.
The Town of Berlin's request for SHA to lower the speed limit on Route 113 came after a pedestrian fatality on the highway in late January. Although it is the first pedestrian death on the Berlin portion of the highway, there were accident fatalities on the road in 2000, 2001 and 2004, according to Cardinale's letter to Drewer. In 2007, there were 27 accidents and nine injuries on the stretch of highway.
Berlin Police Chief Arnold Downing, however, said most of the accidents on Route 113 in Berlin occurred at intersections.
"The accidents we have aren't speed related," Downing said.
In the town's correspondence with SHA, Cardinale also questioned the possibility of a traffic signal at the intersection of Route 113 and Germantown Road; but in his reply, Drewer said a study last year found that a signal was not warranted there.
"We will continue to monitor growth in this area and will require all developers of significant projects to perform an additional signal-warrant review as part of their impact analysis," Drewer stated in the letter.
Despite the decision from SHA officials to make no changes to Route 113 at this time, some area residents are still concerned.
"I'm for doing more studying," said Bob Hulburd, head of CRASH (County Residents Action for Safer Highways). "I think a look at that whole area is merited. The problem is you've got a fairly major highway running through a town. It's a challenging situation."
He said the speed limit was only one factor along the road.
"Speed limit is not the end-all, save-all," Hulburd said. "Maybe they should look at access, maybe limit turning. Those are all things that should be looked at."
Berlin resident Cate Carrick drives on Route 113 every day and says that as long as drivers and pedestrians are alert the road is fairly safe.
"People just need to be careful whether they're driving or walking," she said. "It is a major highway."