Posted on January 12th, 2017 at 3:21 pm.
Interstates and urban highways are one thing; but why should the State of Oregon be able to tell cities and counties how to set speed limits on local streets?
It’s a question that has irked City of Portland transportation officials for many years and one that has grown in importance as Vision Zero has emerged as a top priority. Speeding is the top factor that determines whether someone lives or dies in a traffic collision, so it’s no surprise that cities want to do everything they can to keep it under control. But under current law the Oregon Department of Transportation wields nearly complete oversight of speed limits. With just one narrowly-defined exception (more on that below), ODOT gets first and final say about how fast people can legally drive on every street in Oregon.
That might be changing thanks to a bill making its way through the legislative process in Salem.
Currently, the one exception to ODOT’s oversight of speed limits is on residential streets that have been engineered specifically to prioritize vulnerable roadway users. Cities and counties won the right to lower the speed limit on residential streets (a.k.a. “neighborhood greenways” in Portland) to 20 mph in the 2011 legislative session.