Under Georgia law, police officers and deputies using radar cant ticket a driver whose vehicle is traveling less than 10 mph over the posted speed limit.
The restriction helps prevent abuse by cops tempted to operate speed traps. Unfortunately, the law also provides a loophole for savvy speeders, raising the effective speed limit on roads by 10 mph.
That makes it all the more important for the Georgia Department of Transportation and Department of Public Safety to agree to Columbia County officials request to lower the speed limit on state-owned North Belair Road.
A reduction is just common sense. The posted speed limit on North Belair is 55 mph; that means drivers can whiz along at 65 mph on the two-lane, mostly residential road with impunity. Meanwhile, motorists on four- and five-laned Washington Road are restricted to 45 mph; how ridiculous is that?
The state agencies already intend to lower the speed limit, but theres a catch: Its in conjunction with a project to expand North Belair to make it an artery from Furys Ferry Road to Fort Gordon. That would match the DOTs move to lower the local speed limit on Interstate 20 in anticipation of highway repairs.
But while residents along Belair want slower speeds, they clearly oppose turning the road into an expressway - and the expansion shouldnt be the price they have to pay for safer speeds.
Even as debate on the expansion continues, the DOT and Public Safety should slash the speed limit on North Belair; the Columbia County Sheriffs Office is ready to nab drivers who refuse to slow down.
Incidentally, Columbia County commissioners - who last week called on the DOT to lower the speed limit - continue supporting the North Belair expansion, while state Rep. Ben Harbin opposes the current design. Were with Harbin.
Theres more at stake here than just the potential destruction of a residential road. If the project proceeds as planned, county taxpayers will have to cough up more than $5 million to pay for right-of-way along the route and for utilities to be moved. The DOT would then use state funding to pay for the nearly $7 million construction cost of the project.
Politicians often seek this kind of partnership because it delivers more bang for the local buck. No matter how attractive the funding, do Columbia County taxpayers really want to spend that kind of money on a project that officials have yet to justify?
County Construction and Maintenance Director Kevin Lear says the DOT will announce its decision on an alternate design for the North Belair project by years end. An answer on the lower speed limit is expected sooner.
The best answers would impose a lower speed limit - and leave the road itself alone.
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