A new state law that would allow the City of Portland to reduce speed limits on over 3,000 miles of residential streets — that’s over 60 percent of all the streets in Portland — to 20 mph cleared a major hurdle yesterday.
With a vote of 4-1 in the Senate Committee On Business and Transportation, House Bill 2682 now only has to pass a vote of the full Senate before it can be signed into law. The bill passed the Oregon House 55-1 back in April.
The bill, sponsored by State Respresentative Rob Nosse, would only apply to the City of Portland. It was amended after cities and counties across the state said they didn’t want the added resonsibility of making speed limit decisions themselves and would rather have ODOT’s continued oversight.
At a hearing prior to the committee vote yesterday, City of Portland Active Transportation & Safety Division Manager Margi Bradway told legislators that with an increasing volume of cut-through traffic (thanks in large part to traffic apps like Waze and Google Maps), this law is needed now more than ever.
“When I think about residential streets, I think about people walking their dogs, playing with their kids… it’s really important we send a message.”
— Margi Bradway, Active Transportation & Safety Division Manager at PBOT during testimony in Salem yesterday.
“When I think about residential streets, I think about people walking their dogs, playing with their kids. My kids like to ride their bikes and little scooters in the street,” Bradway tesified. “And as Portland gets more crowded unfortunately we’re seeing more cut-through traffic on those streets so it’s really important we send a message by lowering the posted speed limit and keeping those residential streets safe for familes and kids.”
Residential streets currently have a default maximum speed limit of 25 mph. Bradway explained to Senators that even at these relatively low speeds, five miles an hour can mean the difference between life or death. “If a person driving a car hits a pedestrian at 25 mph they are 42 percent more likely to kill that person than they are at 20 mph. That’s a big jump.”
A representative for the Asian Pacific American Network of Oregon also testified. Several fatal collisions in 2016 happened just blocks from their offices on SE Division Street. “Too many of our community elders have been killed crossing the street. We believe these deaths are preventable… slower speeds may have saved their lives.”
While this new law wouldn’t give PBOT the ability to lower speeds on arterials like Division, they can still use other tools to tame traffic on larger streets. Bradway said this is a “good compromise” with ODOT, who wasn’t comfortable giving PBOT authority over arterials because of the presence of freight vehicles.
The Street Trust and Families for Safe Streets both wanted the bill to include arterials. In a written statement submitted to the committee, The Street Trust wrote, “We also would like to see this bill go further in allowing the City of Portland and other jurisdictions to also lower speed limits on arterials and other high-speed streets, including those designated as high crash corridors.”
The lone Senator who voted against HB 2682 was Fred Girod, who represents a rural district east of Salem. Girod said he thinks enforcement is more important than speed limits. He also said he doesn’t like how Portand is being “separated out” and that if Portland wants to reduce deaths on arterials they should take jurisdiction of them away from ODOT.
The bill now moves to a vote of the full Senate.
In other legislative news: Senate Bill 493, which would create a new crime of criminal negligence with a motor vehicle, has passed the House. And the distracted driving/cell phone bill, HB 2597, is scheduled for a hearing and possible Senate vote tomorrow (5/24).