A key part of the City of Portland’s 2020 legislative agenda and traffic safety efforts got a boost in Salem yesterday when the Joint Committee on Transportation voted 10-2 in favor of House Bill 4103 which authorizes the Oregon Department of Transportation to delegate authority to set speed limits to cities and counties.
HB 4103 is a continuation of work that began last session by House Representative Rob Nosse, a Democrat who represents southeast Portland. Urged by the Portland Bureau of Transportation in their ongoing quest to lower speed limits and make roads safer, Nosse proposed a bill last year (HB 2702) that would have given Portland the ability to set speeds on certain streets in its jurisdiction. That bill didn’t make it out of committee, so Nosse continued discussions with ODOT and lawmakers and brought back a revised version this session.
“What started as an exercise in modifying my own behavior has become an interesting social experiment in watching other drivers react.”
— Leslie Carlson
I have good news to share regarding a little advocacy effort in St. Johns.
Remember how the Oregon Department of Transportation lowered the speed limit on the St. Johns Bridge to 25 mph during a recent construction project? They told me the rationale was to protect vulnerable work crews who were walking on the bridge sidewalk.
It struck me that everyone who uses the St. Johns Bridge outside of a car is just as vulnerable as a construction worker, so why not keep make that speed limit reduction permanent?
As I shared in October, I made a request to ODOT through their public input portal to do just that. ODOT told me the request would have to come from the City of Portland. So I made a similar request to the Bureau of Transportation (PBOT) via the 823-SAFE hotline.
Guess what? [Read more…]
When Portland Bureau of Transportation management and staff heard about the new safety study focused on speed released by the National Transportation Safety Board on Thursday, their reaction must have been. “It’s about time!”
The report is making waves in transportation reform circles for its strong tone against the scourge of speeding and what should be done about it. The NTSB looked at crashes from 2004 through 2014 and found that speed was listed as a factor in nearly one-third of all fatal crashes. That led the NTSB’s Acting Chairman Robert L. Sumwalt to say, “You can’t tackle our rising epidemic of roadway deaths without tackling speeding.”
Here’s more from the NTSB press release:[Read more…]
A bill that would give cities across Oregon new powers to lower speed limits without first seeking permission from the State of Oregon has been significantly amended ahead of a hearing and possible vote tomorrow (Wednesday, 4/12).
House Bill 2682 seeks to change Oregon’s rules for setting maximum speeds (ORS 810.180). While the Oregon Department of Transportation (ODOT) doesn’t manage or own most local streets, the agency still controls speed limits. As more cities adopt Vision Zero plans and struggle to respond to an increase in injuries and deaths to vulnerable road users, the City of Portland and local House Representative Rob Nosse led the charge to create this bill. When it was first introduced, the bill was devilishly simple and would have given broad new authority to all cities across Oregon to set their own speed limits without going through ODOT.
Now, as the legislative session heads into crunch time, a major amendment would reduce most of that authority, but also make the bill much more likely to pass.
Portland City Council just voted unanimously to enact an emergency state law to drop the speed limit on outer Division Street — a road recently referred to as a “death corridor” by City Commissioner Dan Saltzman.
As we reported earlier this month, the move comes as the Bureau of Transportation reacts to a spate of deaths and injuries on the street. The move also comes as the latest example of PBOT flexing its Vision Zero muscles.
Since this passed as an emergency, it can go into effect immediately. PBOT crews will be out on Division Street tomorrow taking down 35 mph signs and replacing them with 30 mph signs. Once the signs are up, the new speed limit will be in place for 120 days. If all goes according to PBOT’s plan, they’ll never have to remove the signs. Upcoming changes to the street intended to slow people down are likely to reduce average speeds to an amount compatible with what the Oregon Department of Transportation prefers to see before granting an official, permanent speed limit change.
Here’s more from PBOT as shared in a press statement following today’s Council vote:[Read more…]
When a city says traffic safety is their top priority, it should be willing to do whatever it takes to make people drive more slowly.
In Portland that means taking a very close look at the Oregon Revised Statutes.
Portland Bureau of Transportation Director Leah Treat announced today that her bureau will seek permission to enact section nine of ORS 810.180 which gives the city the power to set an “emergency speed” without going through the often onerous process of asking for permission from the State of Oregon. (Note: Another section of this same law gives cities the power to reduce speeds on certain residential streets, thanks to a lobbying effort by PBOT in 2011.)
Treat said they’ve decided to take this very rare step in order to keep people safer on outer Southeast Division Street. Back in December two people were killed while trying to walk crossing Division Street in two separate crashes just hours apart. The tragedies sparked outrage from local residents, activists and even top PBOT staff. One day after the deaths, PBOT Active Transportation Group Manager Margi Bradway called neighborhood leaders to talk about the city’s response. Those conversations led to the passage of $300,000 in emergency funding to do outreach and education in adjacent neighborhoods (which are populated by many people of Chinese and other descents who don’t read or speak English).
To continue their focus on taming Division Street, Treat said PBOT will bring an ordinance to Portland City Council on March 2nd asking them to support the move. The existing state law gives PBOT the ability to make this move, but we’ve never heard of it actually being done. [Read more…]