Hi John,

Here is my summary:

On Memorial Day Weekend 2002 I was issued a citation for 730 CMR 7.086 “Speeding in excess of the posted limit on a Mass Turnpike Authority Road” in the CANA tunnel Southbound (Route 1 just after the Tobin Bridge tolls). I was clocked via LIDAR at 62 MPH where the posted limit was a ridiculously low 30MPH. A state trooper issued the citation and, interestingly, suggested I go to court since the $300 fine was so steep. He even told me where I could find parking near the Charlestown Court House.

I wrote the Mass Turnpike Authority and asked for a copy of the Engineering Study used to set the 30 MPH speed limit. They referred me to MassHighway who I subsequently wrote. MassHighway sent me a 5-page engineering study completed in 1994 stating that the observed 85th percentile speed in both CANA tunnels was 57 MPH. The study concluded that an advisory speed limit of 45 MPH should be posted in the tunnel since the approaching road had a 45 MPH speed limit.

My argument for the case went like this: According to the MUTCD, the posted 30 MPH speed limit must be based on an engineering study. Clearly it was not based on such a study since the engineering study MassHighway sent me recommended a speed limit of 45MPH. Therefore, legally the road had no posted speed limit. According to MGL 90 17 (speed limits on roads with no posted speed limit), there was no prima facie evidence of me speeding since the officer would have had to clock me for 1/4 mile and Lidar gives an instantaneous reading.

I planned to also point out the following:

  1. The observed 85th percentile speed was 57 MPH.
  2. The prima facie speed limit on that road is, according to State Law, a more reasonable 50 MPH.
  3. The 45 MPH limit concluded by the engineering study was advisory and not regulatory

The magistrate wouldn’t even let me state my entire argument. He said the engineering study was irrelevant since it was “so old” (1994) and since the CANA tunnels are part of the big dig (“There are lots of changes on those roads”). He said he would “let” me appeal, though. Question: Can magistrates prevent you from appealing?

Interestingly, there were other victims of the same exact speed trap at the magistrate hearing and I talked to one of them about his argument which was that the road’s speed limit was poorly posted. Evidently the magistrate said that his argument “wasn’t good enough to get an appeal.” I was surprised.

On my court date I showed up with an outline and all my documents organized and numbered. I planned to point out that I was charged with “Speeding in excess of the posted limit” so that the judge would be less tempted to reduce my fine and more tempted to dismiss the case. $300 is nothing compared to five years of insurance hikes.

I wish I could say I stated my argument so persuasively that the judge ruled in my favor with tears in his eyes. The truth, however, is much more mundane than that. The trooper failed to appear and I was found not responsible.

Thanks John. Your emails and the NMA website gave me the encouragement to fight this speeding ticket and win.

Keep up the fight!