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Home >Technical Subjects >Traffic Issues>Summary of Law & Pertinent Details

Summary of Law & Pertinent Details

September, 2001

The law now allows certain Municipalities to set certain limits on certain roads. As a result of LD 643 in the 120th Maine Legislature, the law has changed relative to WHO has authority to set speed limits on Maine’s local roads. The new law was signed by the governor on May 29, 2001 as Public Law 2001, Chapter 313. It amends Title 29-A § 2075, §-3 and became effective on September 21, 2001.

Here are the highlights:

  • The MDOT no longer has sole authority or responsibility for speed limits in Maine. Certain municipalities will now have the full responsibility and authority for setting speed limits on local roads after providing written notice to MaineDOT if they choose that option
  • Only “qualifying municipalities” will have this authority. A “qualifying municipality” is one that (1) has a population over 2,500 as measured by the last US Census, or (2) employs a Professional Engineer (PE) licensed in Maine
  • Qualifying roads are ONLY townways which are federally classified as “local” roads. Typically, these are local neighborhood streets and not the busier main roads through town
  • In order to accept this responsibility, the municipality MUST provide written notice to the Commissioner (on the proper MDOT form letter) and understand that it shall accept the full responsibility to set speed limits on ALL qualifying roads in that town ---- not just a few roads for a short amount of time. The municipality will now be “in the speed zoning business” and will accept all the pros and cons related to this work
  • Regardless of whether your town is an “urban compact” town or not, local control will ONLY apply to local roads or “townways”. Speed limits on State or State Aid highways will remain the full responsibility of the MaineDOT
  • Speed zoning is a technical subject and requires proper review and analysis of many factors. Therefore, all speed limits must be set in conformance with procedures set forth in the Manual on Uniform Traffic Control Devices (MUTCD). Traffic engineers also agree that an unreasonably low speed limit WILL NOT “get people to slow down”. Speed limits which are set too low do a disservice to everyone and breed greater disrespect for the law
  • Speed limits must be in 5 mph increments and be within the following ranges:
    • From 20 to 25 mph, inclusive, for roads in a business or residential district or a compact area, except that 15 mph can be used on roads on islands not accessible by road, or dead end roads less than ¼ mile in length, and

    • From 30 to 50 mph, inclusive, on roads in all other areas.
  • Any municipally-set speed limits are legal if the following 3 steps are followed:
    • The limits must be validated as a municipal traffic ordinance as set forth in Title 30-A, § 3009.

    • Standard speed limit signs must be posted per the MUTCD (min 24 by 30 inches), and

    • Written notice of the speed limit zones must be sent to the MDOT (on MDOT form letter) after passage of the municipal traffic ordinance.
  • For those towns which have a population of 5,000 or more, the MDOT may require the town to gather all the proper technical information, send it to MDOT, and the MDOT will determine the actual speed limit. The technical data will include number of driveways, traffic volume, prevailing speed, accident history, and speed enforcement efforts, etc


This page last updated on 1/9/13