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River Watch speed limit was wrong, officials say

Sunday, June 23, 2013 12:50 AM
Last updated Monday, June 24, 2013 2:43 PM
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Stephanie College was surprised last month when she rounded a curve on River Watch Parkway and saw a sheriff’s deputy aiming a radar gun at her Infiniti M35.

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A black bag covers a 45 mph speed limit sign on River Watch Parkway.  EMILY ROSE BENNETT/STAFF
A black bag covers a 45 mph speed limit sign on River Watch Parkway.

She was more surprised when she was pulled over.

“I was in between a minivan and an SUV of some kind, so I thought he was targeting me because of my car,” said College, who takes River Watch home every day after work.

The officer explained that he was standing behind the 45 mph speed limit sign when he clocked her going 62.

“I said, ‘No, I’m pretty sure it is 55 here,’ ” she said. “I still didn’t believe him. I never saw the sign.”

The sign was there, but it was wrong.

For months the speed limit on that portion of River Watch was marked incorrectly, without the knowledge of the Richmond County Sheriff’s Office. Police say the tickets they issued during that time are valid, but some drivers are wondering whether they should have been charged for violating an incorrect speed limit.

Augusta Traffic Engineer Steve Cas­sell said the lower speed limit was posted by a contractor working on improvements to the Augusta Canal tow path.

Cassell said the contractor in charge of the project had authorization to reduce the speed limit from 55 mph to 45 mph, but only during specific hours and under certain conditions.

According to a plan approved by the Georgia Department of Transportation, the speed limit could be reduced between 9 a.m. and 3 p.m., but not during peak traffic times, such as when drivers were leaving work.

“They really should have covered up the 45 mph signs otherwise,” Cassell said. “That speed was just to be in effect when there was a lane closed. It’s just when they are bringing in certain heavy equipment.”

Cassell said the contractor misunderstood the authorization and posted the new signs, probably in late February.

Russell Foster, the project manager for the Augusta Canal Authority, said the lower speed limit should have been invoked on only two instances.

“The contractor just made a mistake,” he said. “We corrected it as soon as we were aware of it.”

Foster said Cassell notified him that the signs were in error June 3, and the contractor covered them with black plastic bags the same day.

Before that, deputies were enforcing the posted 45 mph limit.

Sheriff’s Lt. Ramone Lamkin said traffic officers weren’t aware of the problem with the signs. He said the effort on River Watch was part of general traffic enforcement.

“It would have been nice if someone had let us know,” Lamkin said. “We just try to work proactively to slow people down.”

He wasn’t sure how many speeding tickets were issued in the past month or so on River Watch because the office doesn’t track citations by street and most of those issued have already been sent to State Court.

Since the black bags were placed over the signs, Lamkin said, his officers have been enforcing the 55 mph limit. Sheriff’s Lt. Calvin Chew said fewer than 20 speeding tickets had been issued on River Watch in the past 10 days – the length of time citations are kept at the sheriff’s office before being forwarded to court.

State Court Solicitor Kellie McIntyre did not return messages seeking information about the tickets.

College said she thinks that if the speed limit was wrong, then she was ticketed incorrectly. Court officials told her the fine would be $341.

“I’m going to fight it,” she said. She expects to make an argument before a judge July 15.

Lamkin said the tickets should stand because they were issued in good faith by officers enforcing a posted speed limit.

“As long as the DOT approved it and it was posted, we can enforce it,” he said.

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Truth Matters
Truth Matters 06/23/13 - 04:36 pm
Speed limit

You raise some excellent points.
As a side bar, I am amazed that so many believe in "zero tolerance" for everything from suspending kids who have a nail clipper on person, or the Boy Scout who forgot to remove a camping tool from his back pack that was used during camping the week end before, but when it comes to adults we want the benefit of the doubt.

I am sure that were this me, I would be disappointed, but a speed limit was posted and that is the limit that should have been observed.

EMS4411 06/23/13 - 05:58 pm
This would be easy to correct

This would be easy to correct if the Sheriff would take the time to do it. When a car makes a traffic stop he radio's in his location and description of the car and if he writes a warning ticket or a traffic citation he asks for a incident # and time of stop which is all longed on the CAD (computer dispatch system) for example all addresses that deputy goes to are logged into the computer records how many times they have been to a certain location just review the computer entries for River Watch Pkwy and notify the court for everyone that was ticketed there go for there. Yes the County would loose Revenue but at least it would be the right thing to do but that is to much like right for this county.

palmetto1008 06/23/13 - 06:13 pm
rtrct2dok @ 3:49. You can

rtrct2dok @ 3:49. You can talk to me. I'll double it for you. There's no excuse for 67 in a 45 or a 55 MPH zone.

scoopdedoop64 06/23/13 - 06:58 pm

When you change the speed limit to an area without it being a reasonable change like this and then found out it was wrong then the tickets should be dismissed. I hope the judge will find in favor of dismissing the tickets and I don't blame people for fighting it.

rtrct2dok 06/23/13 - 08:49 pm

I wasn't making excuses and I don't normally speed. Stuff happens you know? But as an unemployed student with a wife and kids I don't want to pay a higher fine just because the sheriff's dept. was possibly running some shady speed trap. If the sheriff's office was in the wrong and it was not 45, I would like to know. 55 in a 67 should be cheaper than 45 in a 67.

Just The Truth
Just The Truth 06/23/13 - 08:50 pm
Official Code

According to the Official Code of Georgia, speeding tickets cannot be issued on grades steeper than 7% and only for speeds above what the radar permit is issued for. That means if the permit is for certain times of the day, it is only good for that time. I would request to see the radar permit for any ticket issued, you would be surprised to see how many tickets are incorrectly given.

my.voice 06/24/13 - 08:57 am
55 is way too fast for this

55 is way too fast for this stretch of highway.

LLArms 06/24/13 - 10:30 am
Most people don't know why

Most people don't know why most police departments only pull you over for so many miles over the limit.

Simply put, its because no Speedometer is completely accurate. Even factory speedometers can be off up to 10mph.

Also, those willing to take it to court will probably win. To the police department its all a numbers game. They know some people just don't contest tickets. So its free money.

If a cop issues 20 citations do you think he is going to show up to court 20 times? lol

JustLilMe 06/24/13 - 12:43 pm
I hope Fayette isn't one of

I hope Fayette isn't one of those folks blocking the left lane of Riverwatch, those folks are a danger to everyone. If you're going the exact speed limit keep to the right, please. Use the left as intended-a passing lane.

itsanotherday1 06/24/13 - 01:41 pm
SAY WHAT??????

"55 is way too fast for this stretch of highway"

itsanotherday1 06/24/13 - 01:44 pm
@ Truth Matters

I don't think you will find a whole lot of us more conservative people supporting zero tolerance. That is typically a liberal idiocy.

whyme 06/25/13 - 02:34 pm
I was right!

9 thumbs down on my earlier post which only confirms its content. I rest my case!

Tryme 06/25/13 - 03:55 pm
Columbia County Tollway

Looks like the RCSO will have to actually start working to investigate real crimes since the "Columbia County Toll Road" has been shut down. Sorry boys. No more shooting fish in the barrel pulling over people who can't vote for your boss.

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