WASHINGTON — The Transportation Department levied a $510,000 fine Friday against Arizona because too many of its motorists exceeded the 55 m.p.h. speed limit.
It marked the first time the federal government has taken sanctions against a state for failing to enforce the speed limit.
The department informed Arizona officials that 1% of the state's non-interstate federal highway money was being withheld after it failed for a third straight year to meet federal highway speed enforcement standards.
Four other states--Maryland, Vermont, Rhode Island and New Hampshire--met the federal standards during 1986 after failing in at least one previous year and will not lose any money, department officials said.
Stiffer Fine Was Possible
Under the law, Arizona could have been fined as much as 10% of its highway money, or about $5.1 million, because of its speeding motorists.
In Phoenix, Arizona officials said they were happy that more money was not withheld. "We're all quite delighted that they're not going to hold up very much of our funds," Gov. Evan Mecham said.
Both Arizona and Vermont had been advised by Transportation Secretary Elizabeth Hanford Dole last year that they could lose highway funds because too many of their motorists were traveling more than 55 m.p.h. At the time, 10% of the non-interstate subsidies for the two states were ordered put in escrow.
As part of Friday's enforcement action, the remaining funds in escrow, about $4.6 million, were set free for Arizona officials to use.