On May 1st, traffic engineers in the state of Oregon will no longer rely on an outdated and dangerous method for setting speed limits. Thanks to new rules adopted by the Oregon Transportation Commission last month, the process for for designating speeds has changed dramatically and now goes way beyond the traditional 85 percentile method.
The 85th percentile rule has dominated U.S. traffic engineering since it was championed in the 1960s. It says limits should set at the speed which 85% of drivers are currently driving at or under. What could possibly go wrong? Since it’s a universal phenomenon that people drive faster than what’s safe, this methodology is very biased toward higher speeds and it’s a big factor in America’s rising traffic death toll. [Read more…]
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…]