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Regional Boards => Northwest => Topic started by: Tarkus on May 17, 2011, 12:05:45 AM

Title: Efforts to raise Oregon's speed limits
Post by: Tarkus on May 17, 2011, 12:05:45 AM
Heard about this the other day . . . a couple Oregon state senators (Starr and Atkinson) are launching an effort to get Oregon's maximum speed limit on freeways upped to 75mph (http://www.oregonlive.com/politics/index.ssf/2011/05/gop_senators_launch_effort_to.html).  

They're discussing stuffing it into House Bill 3150, which was an effort launched by City of Portland lobbyists to do an end run around state speed zoning efforts by allowing statutory 20mph zones on vaguely-defined "greenways".

The plan does nothing to raise limits on non-interstates, is vague on truck split speeds (KMTR-TV said they'd be 60mph, meaning a 15mph split) and would apparently only affect I-5 and I-84.

As expected, the governor and some prominent ODOT/Oregon Transportation Commission types (who have killed off every previous legislative effort on this issue) don't like it.  I think the only way we're going to get higher speed limits is if "direct democracy" (i.e. a ballot measure) is used.
Title: Re: Efforts to raise Oregon's speed limits
Post by: agentsteel53 on May 17, 2011, 01:26:25 AM
Quote
Oregon's 65 mph speed limit is the lowest of any state west of the Mississippi River.

Hawaii, with its speed limit of 60 is, apparently, to the east of the Mississippi, and fudge the International Date Line?

the article in general is noting that Portland wants to lower the speed limits across the board ... 25 in residential districts and what have you.  

I'll take 25 on residential streets, if they raise the rural speed limit to something sensible like 100 or 105!
Title: Re: Efforts to raise Oregon's speed limits
Post by: Tarkus on June 07, 2011, 05:14:41 PM
the article in general is noting that Portland wants to lower the speed limits across the board ... 25 in residential districts and what have you.  

I'll take 25 on residential streets, if they raise the rural speed limit to something sensible like 100 or 105!

Actually, Portland wants some 20 zones on certain residential streets--"bike boulevards", or "greenways", as they've recently rechristened them.  The bill (HB 3150) did end up getting amended by the Senate Transportation Committee to add a clause that Portland could only do this after a speed study had proven that more than 85% of vehicles were going slower than 30mph and the traffic volume was less than 2000/day.  The Senate passed the bill in its amended form on the 1st, and the House approved the Senate's revisions yesterday.

They did not, however, manage to stuff the 75mph limit into the bill, unfortunately. 
Title: Re: Efforts to raise Oregon's speed limits
Post by: andytom on June 07, 2011, 06:15:49 PM
They did not, however, manage to stuff the 75mph limit into the bill, unfortunately. 

It would never get past the governor anyway.  He wouldn't sign for 70 during his previous 2 terms.

--Andy
Title: Re: Efforts to raise Oregon's speed limits
Post by: sp_redelectric on June 08, 2011, 12:13:15 AM
Given the last time the matter was "studied" only to conclude that many of the highway stretches were so remote that they were too far away from a major trauma hospital to tend to victims of high speed collisions...  Of course with criteria like that nothing will get done.

I'm surprised Oregon's Legislature hasn't passed a 50 MPH statewide maximum speed limit (with 35 in the Portland metro area...)
Title: Re: Efforts to raise Oregon's speed limits
Post by: KEK Inc. on June 18, 2011, 06:33:52 PM
I'm friends with someone who's dad is pretty high up in ODOT, and I had a talk with him about speed limits.  According to him, the reason why the state speed limit is set at 65 is because there's a hard law in place where the car traffic MUST be no more than 10 MPH above truck traffic.  Their reasoning is due to the fact most motorists don't give sufficient room when passing trucks, so trucks are forced to brake. 

Since Oregon allows triple trailer trucks, they refuse to increase truck speed limits from 55 to 60. 
Title: Re: Efforts to raise Oregon's speed limits
Post by: nexus73 on June 18, 2011, 06:41:26 PM
Split speed limits are not safe.  Other states are repealing them but Oregon, for all it's progressive reputation, is being run by reactionary types and then add in the do-littles to see why we're in such a mess out here. 

Here's an example of Oregon transportation stupidity.  When a bill came up to make school speed zones 24/7, only ONE legislator opposed it.  He was a cop who knew what kind of mess the law would make.  People got tickets they sure didn't need to be getting and not one iota of increase in safety came from this law, which took several years to repeal and finally take all actions on.

Rick
Title: Re: Efforts to raise Oregon's speed limits
Post by: Tarkus on June 20, 2011, 03:13:32 AM
It would never get past the governor anyway.  He wouldn't sign for 70 during his previous 2 terms.

Unfortunately, yes, which means pretty much nothing is going to get done by the legislature on that front until (at least) 2014, at least not without some very clever political maneuvering. 

Given the last time the matter was "studied" only to conclude that many of the highway stretches were so remote that they were too far away from a major trauma hospital to tend to victims of high speed collisions...  Of course with criteria like that nothing will get done.

I'm surprised Oregon's Legislature hasn't passed a 50 MPH statewide maximum speed limit (with 35 in the Portland metro area...)

That "study" was a ridiculous joke.  I happened to finally run across it [link for those who are curious] (http://www.its.pdx.edu/upload_docs/1249577119.pdf) the other day after a long while searching.   I found it rather funny that rather than having the main state highway engineering schools (OSU and OIT) do it, they farmed it out to PSU and OHSU, probably with the full knowledge that they'd produce a report that would keep the status quo.

And actually, Rep. Bob Jenson (from Pendleton, no less) actually tried re-instating a 55mph maximum with HB 2548 in 2009 (http://www.leg.state.or.us/09reg/measures/hb2500.dir/hb2548.intro.html).  Fortunately, it didn't get anywhere.

I'm friends with someone who's dad is pretty high up in ODOT, and I had a talk with him about speed limits.  According to him, the reason why the state speed limit is set at 65 is because there's a hard law in place where the car traffic MUST be no more than 10 MPH above truck traffic.  Their reasoning is due to the fact most motorists don't give sufficient room when passing trucks, so trucks are forced to brake.

Actually, that's not at all true.  The only specification is that there must be a split speed, with the truck speed being a minimum of 5mph lower.  There's no maximum split size specified.  Allow me to quote ORS 810.180 (3) (http://www.leg.state.or.us/ors/810.html) (I've added a bold annotation to highlight the pertinent bit).

Quote
      (3) The Department of Transportation may establish by rule designated speeds on any specified section of interstate highway if the department determines that speed limits established under ORS 811.111 (1) are greater or less than is reasonable or safe under the conditions that exist with respect to that section of the interstate highway. Designated speeds established under this subsection are subject to all of the following:

      (a) The department may not establish a designated speed under this subsection of more than:

      (A) Sixty-five miles per hour for vehicles described in ORS 811.111 (1)(b); and

      (B) Seventy miles per hour for all other vehicles.

      (b) If the department establishes designated speeds under this subsection that are greater than 65 miles per hour, the designated speed for vehicles described in ORS 811.111 (1)(b) (read: trucks, school buses, etc.) must be at least five miles per hour lower than the designated speed for all other vehicles on the specified section of interstate highway.

      (c) The department may establish a designated speed under this subsection only if an engineering and traffic investigation indicates that the statutory speed for the interstate highway is greater or less than is reasonable or safe under conditions the department finds to exist.

      (d) A designated speed established under this subsection is effective when appropriate signs giving notice of the designated speed are posted on the section of interstate highway where the designated speed is imposed.

The statutory speed limits defined in ORS 811.111 (http://www.leg.state.or.us/ors/811.html) for interstates conforms to the current maximum--65 Cars/55 Trucks.  Nothing mandating a maximum split size there either.

Since Oregon allows triple trailer trucks, they refuse to increase truck speed limits from 55 to 60. 

That's all the more reason to ban triples.  They're evil and can barely stay in their own lane.  (I speak from recent experience--I ran across one triple trying to pass another on I-5 near Woodburn a few nights ago.)

Here's an example of Oregon transportation stupidity.  When a bill came up to make school speed zones 24/7, only ONE legislator opposed it.  He was a cop who knew what kind of mess the law would make.  People got tickets they sure didn't need to be getting and not one iota of increase in safety came from this law, which took several years to repeal and finally take all actions on.

That law was an absolute clusterbleep.  The current law is miles better, but still not exactly great either--they really ought to mandate flashing lights or flags be placed to indicate when school zones are actually in effect, rather than the blanket "7am-5pm" nonsense.
Title: Re: Efforts to raise Oregon's speed limits
Post by: mightyace on June 20, 2011, 03:51:41 AM
Since Oregon allows triple trailer trucks, they refuse to increase truck speed limits from 55 to 60. 

That's all the more reason to ban triples.  They're evil and can barely stay in their own lane.  (I speak from recent experience--I ran across one triple trying to pass another on I-5 near Woodburn a few nights ago.)

Agreed.  Or, as I say it, keep the trains on the tracks!
Title: Re: Efforts to raise Oregon's speed limits
Post by: myosh_tino on June 21, 2011, 02:19:43 AM
Since Oregon allows triple trailer trucks, they refuse to increase truck speed limits from 55 to 60. 

That's all the more reason to ban triples.  They're evil and can barely stay in their own lane.  (I speak from recent experience--I ran across one triple trying to pass another on I-5 near Woodburn a few nights ago.)
I agree, ban the triples!  I've seen them on my occasional trips to Oregon and trying to pass one when there a breeze blowing is quite a harrowing experience.

I'm glad California doesn't allow triples and that all trucks are restricted to the right lanes and 55 MPH is the maximum speed limit.  BTW, cars towing trailers are bound to the same restrictions (right lane only and 55 MPH speed limit).  California does enforce a split limit which is usually 65 for cars and 55 for trucks although a 70/55 split does exist on rural freeways.  It's been reported that truckers are trying to get the 55 truck limit repealed in California but so far it's fallen on deaf ears.
Title: Re: Efforts to raise Oregon's speed limits
Post by: Sykotyk on June 21, 2011, 04:22:00 PM
That's because the split produces horribly congested traffic. Drive I-70 in Ohio or I-80 in Illinois to see the amazing transformation of traffic when the truck differential limit was repealed.

Traffic actually moves now. Also, trucks aren't banned from the left lane, they still can pass in the lane to the immediate left.
Title: Re: Efforts to raise Oregon's speed limits
Post by: vdeane on June 22, 2011, 12:22:31 PM
The Thruway does "no trucks, buses, or trailers left lane" in sections with three lanes or in work zones.  I suspect this is because they widen from the left and not the right and they don't want these vehicles to become trapped.
Title: Re: Efforts to raise Oregon's speed limits
Post by: JREwing78 on June 22, 2011, 10:19:44 PM
I barely even see triples on the Ohio Turnpike and Indiana Toll Road. What's the point if you can only run them in a few locations? I'd be perfectly okay with sacrificing them to get the speed limits bumped to reasonable levels.
Title: Re: Efforts to raise Oregon's speed limits
Post by: andytom on June 23, 2011, 01:08:36 AM
I'm friends with someone who's dad is pretty high up in ODOT, and I had a talk with him about speed limits.  According to him, the reason why the state speed limit is set at 65 is because there's a hard law in place where the car traffic MUST be no more than 10 MPH above truck traffic.  Their reasoning is due to the fact most motorists don't give sufficient room when passing trucks, so trucks are forced to brake.

Actually, that's not at all true.  The only specification is that there must be a split speed, with the truck speed being a minimum of 5mph lower.  There's no maximum split size specified.  Allow me to quote ORS 810.180 (3) (http://www.leg.state.or.us/ors/810.html) (I've added a bold annotation to highlight the pertinent bit).

Quote
      (3) The Department of Transportation may establish by rule designated speeds on any specified section of interstate highway if the department determines that speed limits established under ORS 811.111 (1) are greater or less than is reasonable or safe under the conditions that exist with respect to that section of the interstate highway. Designated speeds established under this subsection are subject to all of the following:

      (a) The department may not establish a designated speed under this subsection of more than:

      (A) Sixty-five miles per hour for vehicles described in ORS 811.111 (1)(b); and

      (B) Seventy miles per hour for all other vehicles.

      (b) If the department establishes designated speeds under this subsection that are greater than 65 miles per hour, the designated speed for vehicles described in ORS 811.111 (1)(b) (read: trucks, school buses, etc.) must be at least five miles per hour lower than the designated speed for all other vehicles on the specified section of interstate highway.

      (c) The department may establish a designated speed under this subsection only if an engineering and traffic investigation indicates that the statutory speed for the interstate highway is greater or less than is reasonable or safe under conditions the department finds to exist.

      (d) A designated speed established under this subsection is effective when appropriate signs giving notice of the designated speed are posted on the section of interstate highway where the designated speed is imposed.

The statutory speed limits defined in ORS 811.111 (http://www.leg.state.or.us/ors/811.html) for interstates conforms to the current maximum--65 Cars/55 Trucks.  Nothing mandating a maximum split size there either.

Chances are, the 'required' 10 mph split is an ODOT rule rather than a statute.

--Andy
Title: Re: Efforts to raise Oregon's speed limits
Post by: drummer_evans_aki on June 24, 2011, 11:10:25 PM
I think Oregon's freeways should be at least 70mph in rural areas and 60mph in urban areas. Oregon's highways (state and US) should be 60mph in rural areas.
Title: Re: Efforts to raise Oregon's speed limits
Post by: agentsteel53 on June 24, 2011, 11:46:06 PM
I think Oregon's freeways should be at least 70mph in rural areas and 60mph in urban areas. Oregon's highways (state and US) should be 60mph in rural areas.

there are some very underused sections of highway in the eastern part of Oregon (US-395, US-95, US-20, etc) which could easily be 70-75, even though they are two-laners.
Title: Re: Efforts to raise Oregon's speed limits
Post by: drummer_evans_aki on June 25, 2011, 03:26:50 PM
I think Oregon's freeways should be at least 70mph in rural areas and 60mph in urban areas. Oregon's highways (state and US) should be 60mph in rural areas.

there are some very underused sections of highway in the eastern part of Oregon (US-395, US-95, US-20, etc) which could easily be 70-75, even though they are two-laners.

Agreed. The section of US-20 from Bend to Burns could be 70. As could US-395 from the north end of OR-140 concurrency to the junction with US-20 in Riley. 95 throughout Eastern Oregon could also be 70. The only urban area that I.O.N. Hwy passes through is the town of Jordan Valley.
Title: Re: Efforts to raise Oregon's speed limits
Post by: roadfro on June 27, 2011, 12:53:20 AM
Hopefully some headway will be made on this. I took a trip to Portland from Reno several years ago, and was astonished at how low speed limits were in Oregon.

There were some two-lane Oregon highways in the middle of nowhere, with straight sections and clear shoulders, that had speed limits around 50-55. In Nevada, such a highway would typically be posted at 65 or 70.

I also recall several freeways in Portland being posted at 55, and driving south from there it seemed like forever before the speed limit on I-5 went up to 65. Nevada standard is 65 on urban freeways, with rural Interstates at 70 (or 75 in some cases).
Title: Re: Efforts to raise Oregon's speed limits
Post by: J N Winkler on June 27, 2011, 05:41:07 PM
I am skeptical of an increase ever happening--not just because of the current Governor, but also because Oregon has had low speed limits for so long (NMSL repeal was 15 years ago now) that it has become a point of pride.
Title: Re: Efforts to raise Oregon's speed limits
Post by: Brandon on June 27, 2011, 07:37:15 PM
I am skeptical of an increase ever happening--not just because of the current Governor, but also because Oregon has had low speed limits for so long (NMSL repeal was 15 years ago now) that it has become a point of pride.

That's not a point of pride, that's a point of idiocy.  Same idiocy we have here in Illinois and Wisconsin.
Title: Re: Efforts to raise Oregon's speed limits
Post by: agentsteel53 on June 27, 2011, 08:19:35 PM
how were the speed limits in these states before 1974?
Title: Re: Efforts to raise Oregon's speed limits
Post by: xonhulu on June 27, 2011, 10:16:52 PM
how were the speed limits in these states before 1974?


I remember when I was a kid the speed limit on I-5 in the Willamette Valley was 70.  I assume I-84 (then I-80N) was the same but I'm not sure.
Title: Re: Efforts to raise Oregon's speed limits
Post by: agentsteel53 on June 27, 2011, 10:37:19 PM
thus, a very strange point of pride.  a lot of states went back to their pre-1974 speed limits quickly upon the NMSL being repealed.  Montana even tried the "reasonable and prudent" approach - too bad our species turned out to be neither of those!  :pan:

Nevada I know had a "reasonable and prudent" law on a lot of their rural highways as well before NMSL.  Any other states besides those two which had no formal speed limit?  

I think some states have actually gone higher than pre-NMSL limits.  Kansas was up to 80, but I do not know of any other state that signed above 75 (apart from not having a numerical limit at all).  So Texas and Utah have exceeded that amount, with the pending 85 being the highest speed limit in the country.  

Any other examples of states which have exceeded their previous highest speed limits?  I cannot confirm this, but I believe CA was 65 before 1974 but can be as high as 70 today.  Massachusetts may have been as low as 60, though I do not know the Turnpike speed limit.  I just know I have seen a photo of Speed Limit 60 on I-95/MA-128 before 1974.  They raised to 65 by the late 1980s.  I remember the speed limit being 55 on I-95, I-495 etc when I was a kid ... and the cops enforcing about 74.
Title: Re: Efforts to raise Oregon's speed limits
Post by: J N Winkler on June 27, 2011, 11:32:08 PM
thus, a very strange point of pride.  a lot of states went back to their pre-1974 speed limits quickly upon the NMSL being repealed.  Montana even tried the "reasonable and prudent" approach - too bad our species turned out to be neither of those!  :pan:

That's Oregon exceptionalism for you.  Pre-NMSL the speed limit on rural Interstates was 70 (this can be confirmed from contemporary S-drawings accessible through the Oregon DOT website), but Tom McCall's legacy has had forty years to set like concrete.
Title: Re: Efforts to raise Oregon's speed limits
Post by: Alps on June 28, 2011, 12:26:37 AM
PA Turnpike opened with no speed limit, but one was quickly instituted a year or two later. Oh, and the earliest road with no speed limit was the Long Island Motor Parkway.
Title: Re: Efforts to raise Oregon's speed limits
Post by: xonhulu on June 28, 2011, 01:55:56 AM
Pretty sure every poll I've ever seen shows a majority in Oregon wants higher speed limits.
Title: Re: Efforts to raise Oregon's speed limits
Post by: vdeane on June 28, 2011, 12:34:07 PM
Can't be sure about NY.  We were 60 across the board pre-NMSL but since then we've remained 55 for everything but rural freeways (65; some suburban but these are rare).  Not sure if there were any freeways above 60 before NMSL.
Title: Re: Efforts to raise Oregon's speed limits
Post by: J N Winkler on June 28, 2011, 12:44:38 PM
Pretty sure every poll I've ever seen shows a majority in Oregon wants higher speed limits.

But the political system, in Oregon as elsewhere, does not maintain independence of irrelevant alternatives.  Why has this widespread support for higher speed limits not translated into election of legislators and other officials who will actually do something to increase the speed limits?
Title: Re: Efforts to raise Oregon's speed limits
Post by: corco on June 29, 2011, 12:46:25 AM
Quote
But the political system, in Oregon as elsewhere, does not maintain independence of irrelevant alternatives.  Why has this widespread support for higher speed limits not translated into election of legislators and other officials who will actually do something to increase the speed limits?

Because the state of Oregon at the moment has a lot bigger problems than speed limits. The speed limit issue is a lot more of an "in the ideal world" situation. If I lived in Oregon I'd be more inclined to vote for, say, somebody who wants to pump money into the schools even if they were against raising the speed limit.

The other issue is that significant portion of the state lives in Portland where the issue is even more minimized. I'm sure somebody who lives in Burns cares a lot more about higher speed limits than somebody in downtown Portland, but people in Burns (or eastern Oregon in general) are pretty much silenced because they are such a minority part of the population. Portland is one of the most anti-driving cities in the country and represents most of the voter base in Oregon, so folks in eastern Oregon end up voiceless. Low speed limits might be a point of pride for people in downtown Portland, but folks in Ontario and Burns who actually have to drive across Oregon almost certainly want higher speed limits but have no voice.  Same problem to a lesser extent in Washington state (not with speed limits, but with other issues)- Seattle overwhelms the voter base. Spokane and the Tri-Cities have some pull, but not quite enough.
Title: Re: Efforts to raise Oregon's speed limits
Post by: J N Winkler on June 29, 2011, 01:14:20 AM
Because the state of Oregon at the moment has a lot bigger problems than speed limits. The speed limit issue is a lot more of an "in the ideal world" situation. If I lived in Oregon I'd be more inclined to vote for, say, somebody who wants to pump money into the schools even if they were against raising the speed limit.

Yup.  My question was actually rhetorical--I think the speed limit issue in Oregon is a good real-world demonstration of Arrow's impossibility theorem.

Quote
The other issue is that significant portion of the state lives in Portland where the issue is even more minimized. I'm sure somebody who lives in Burns cares a lot more about higher speed limits than somebody in downtown Portland, but people in Burns (or eastern Oregon in general) are pretty much silenced because they are such a minority part of the population. Portland is one of the most anti-driving cities in the country and represents most of the voter base in Oregon, so folks in eastern Oregon end up voiceless. Low speed limits might be a point of pride for people in downtown Portland, but folks in Ontario and Burns who actually have to drive across Oregon almost certainly want higher speed limits but have no voice.  Same problem to a lesser extent in Washington state (not with speed limits, but with other issues)- Seattle overwhelms the voter base. Spokane and the Tri-Cities have some pull, but not quite enough.

There is actually no direct connection between rural speed limits and the complex of policies associated with urban Portland--saturation provision of mass transit, urban growth boundaries, discouraging car use, etc.  If a majority of Oregonians do in fact support a higher speed limit, then because Portland represents such a large percentage of Oregon's voter base, there must be at least a significant minority (if not an outright majority) in Portland which supports higher speed limits.

I think part of what is going on here is that while rural speed limits have little to do with what actually happens in the cities, increasing them would be seen as a huge symbolic concession to the motoring agenda.  Getting things done politically in Oregon means doing business with representatives of the environmentally focused left, who see no upside--either to themselves or to society as a whole--in allowing a speed limit increase to be part of the give-and-take of legislative horsetrading.

Call it a point of pride, or call it something else, but I don't expect to see speed limits go up in Oregon, not now, not in ten years, and probably not in twenty years either.
Title: Re: Efforts to raise Oregon's speed limits
Post by: Tarkus on June 29, 2011, 03:29:21 AM
Pretty sure every poll I've ever seen shows a majority in Oregon wants higher speed limits.

Ditto here. 

And to that effect, I've actually started looking into the possibility of putting together a ballot measure to raise the state's speed limits.  The ballot initiative system in the state allows for the direct modification of the Oregon Revised Statutes, which contains all the laws pertaining to speed limits.  By all appearances, such a measure would be totally legal to put on the ballot.  It'd bypass the legislature, the governor, and ODOT, and all their hemming and hawing, and we'd have a conclusive answer from the people of Oregon once and for all. 
Title: Re: Efforts to raise Oregon's speed limits
Post by: xonhulu on June 29, 2011, 04:46:43 PM
And to that effect, I've actually started looking into the possibility of putting together a ballot measure to raise the state's speed limits.  The ballot initiative system in the state allows for the direct modification of the Oregon Revised Statutes, which contains all the laws pertaining to speed limits.  By all appearances, such a measure would be totally legal to put on the ballot.  It'd bypass the legislature, the governor, and ODOT, and all their hemming and hawing, and we'd have a conclusive answer from the people of Oregon once and for all. 

How would that work, though?  You'd still have to have someone decide what stretches are suitable for what speed, unless you specifically declare what speeds will be on exactly what stretches of roads on the ballot measure.
Title: Re: Efforts to raise Oregon's speed limits
Post by: agentsteel53 on June 29, 2011, 05:15:09 PM
isn't there anything in the General Statutes which currently says "the maximum speed limit on all Oregon roads is 65 for divided roads, 55 for undivided roads.  lower limits may be set as needed by engineering study."?

if so, that is what to change.  Change 65/55 to 80/75 and then let the engineers do their job.
Title: Re: Efforts to raise Oregon's speed limits
Post by: corco on June 29, 2011, 05:29:29 PM
Quote
Change 65/55 to 80/75 and then let the engineers do their job.

Yeah, that would work. In practice you'd end up with legislation authorizing 80/75 speed limits and politicians telling ODOT they'll pull funding if they actually post those speed limits
Title: Re: Efforts to raise Oregon's speed limits
Post by: xonhulu on June 29, 2011, 08:32:17 PM
Exactly.  Right now, the biggest barrier are the politicians, especially the ex-emergency-room-doctor-who's-seen-victims-of-head-on-collisions governor.
Title: Re: Efforts to raise Oregon's speed limits
Post by: agentsteel53 on June 29, 2011, 09:32:00 PM
Yeah, that would work. In practice you'd end up with legislation authorizing 80/75 speed limits and politicians telling ODOT they'll pull funding if they actually post those speed limits

does that sort of lunacy take place in any other state?  I think every other state is posted up to the legislative maximum.

but then again, does any other state have the sort of plebiscite process that Oregon does?
Title: Re: Efforts to raise Oregon's speed limits
Post by: J N Winkler on June 30, 2011, 11:13:59 AM
I don't think there is a state which posts up to the maximum everywhere.  What Corco describes is one mode of failure for a special referendum question which simply increases the legislative maximum speed limits--the referendum passes, the power to increase limits is given to ODOT, and the powers are simply not used because there is no duty to do so.

There are ways around this, such as stipulating the speed limit explicitly by highway name and milepost in the special question, but most of them can be campaigned against very effectively on the basis that they tie ODOT's hands (and, thus, derogate from public safety) by denying it the ability to adjust the speed limit to meet unforeseen circumstances.  For example, you could design the question so that the increased speed limit (70 on Interstates, 65 on deep rural highways, let's say) applies regardless of whether the road is under construction, to prevent ODOT from keeping the old limits by creating "perpetual workzones."  But then opponents could argue that the proposed policy makes it impossible to reduce speed limits for construction even when lane closures are involved, workers are on the highway, etc.
Title: Re: Efforts to raise Oregon's speed limits
Post by: Tarkus on June 30, 2011, 02:04:18 PM
I don't think there is a state which posts up to the maximum everywhere.  What Corco describes is one mode of failure for a special referendum question which simply increases the legislative maximum speed limits--the referendum passes, the power to increase limits is given to ODOT, and the powers are simply not used because there is no duty to do so.

That was a large part of the problem with the 70mph bill that passed in 2004.  It left the statutory limit for interstates at 65mph and left the 70mph zones to ODOT.

Most of the other bills that were written before then, such as SB 564 from 2001 (http://www.leg.state.or.us/01reg/measures/sb0500.dir/sb0564.intro.html) actually upped the statutory limit.  In that particular case, the statutory limit on interstates was upped to 75, and the existing statutory 55 zones were upped to 65.  If ODOT wanted lower speed limits, legally per ORS 810.180, they would have to go through the speed zoning process and prove that the lower speed was justifiable based on the 85th-percentile rule, pace speed, design characteristics and accident history, just as with every other non-statutory limit. 

If ODOT, the OTC, the governor or the legislature tried to pull funny business after a statewide referendum directly voted on by the citizens of Oregon enacting higher speeds, it could put them in a politically and possibly legally precarious situation, and if nothing else, it would thrust the issue of speed limits right to the forefront of Oregon politics.
Title: Re: Efforts to raise Oregon's speed limits
Post by: agentsteel53 on June 30, 2011, 02:09:49 PM
I don't think there is a state which posts up to the maximum everywhere.

no, what I meant was "is there a state that has a maximum on the books that isn't used anywhere?"

I would imagine Texas is the best at posting up to their maximum.  they have a by-county speed limit set, and many, many rural routes are posted at 70 or 75, as is legislatively defined.  It's fairly rare to have a road in Texas that goes through an unpopulated area but has a low speed limit.  the only one I can think of is Farm Road 170 in the Big Bend area, which is fairly abandoned, but has a speed limit of 35 most of the way.

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What Corco describes is one mode of failure for a special referendum question which simply increases the legislative maximum speed limits--the referendum passes, the power to increase limits is given to ODOT, and the powers are simply not used because there is no duty to do so.

is there anyone else to give the power to?  for example, state that "any divided highway with four or more total lanes and no at-grade crossings shall have a speed limit of 80 when it passes through any county with a population density less than X.  any undivided highway with no stops for the mainline (traffic lights, railroads, etc) shall have a speed limit of 75 outside of any developed area ..."  

basically, my question is, how does Texas do it?  seems like they have a system that works just fine without any sort of legal shenanigans and other sophistry that latches onto every exception, no matter how obscure, as opposed to paying attention to the intent of the residents.

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For example, you could design the question so that the increased speed limit (70 on Interstates, 65 on deep rural highways, let's say) applies regardless of whether the road is under construction, to prevent ODOT from keeping the old limits by creating "perpetual workzones."  But then opponents could argue that the proposed policy makes it impossible to reduce speed limits for construction even when lane closures are involved, workers are on the highway, etc.

again, how does Texas get around this sort of general dickheadedness?  (Apart from the whole stereotype that if you're that big of an asshole in Texas you're bound to get shot sooner or later.)
Title: Re: Efforts to raise Oregon's speed limits
Post by: agentsteel53 on June 30, 2011, 02:13:21 PM
That was a large part of the problem with the 70mph bill that passed in 2004.  It left the statutory limit for interstates at 65mph and left the 70mph zones to ODOT.

how does that work?  I thought "statutory" was an absolute maximum?  Apparently, I don't think that word means what I think it means ...
Title: Re: Efforts to raise Oregon's speed limits
Post by: Tarkus on June 30, 2011, 02:26:40 PM
That was a large part of the problem with the 70mph bill that passed in 2004.  It left the statutory limit for interstates at 65mph and left the 70mph zones to ODOT.

how does that work?  I thought "statutory" was an absolute maximum?  Apparently, I don't think that word means what I think it means ...

In the case of the laws on the books in Oregon relating to speed limits, "statutory" means "default".  Any non-statutory (non-default) limit has to be defined by a speed zone investigation.  The state law actually allows 70mph zones on interstates, but as they are not the "default", they have to stem from a speed zone investigation.  ODOT actually kinda cheated on this back in '04--instead of doing a proper speed zone investigation, they instead had PSU and OHSU whip up that fishy anti-70mph report and called it good.
Title: Re: Efforts to raise Oregon's speed limits
Post by: J N Winkler on June 30, 2011, 03:09:33 PM
I would imagine Texas is the best at posting up to their maximum.  they have a by-county speed limit set, and many, many rural routes are posted at 70 or 75, as is legislatively defined.  It's fairly rare to have a road in Texas that goes through an unpopulated area but has a low speed limit.  the only one I can think of is Farm Road 170 in the Big Bend area, which is fairly abandoned, but has a speed limit of 35 most of the way.

FM 170 has numerous curves, one hill with a 17% grade, and many summit curves with restricted visibility, so it is no surprise that it has been zoned for lower speed limits.  BTW, I don't remember the limit being 35 for very long distances.  The limits I remember are 50 around Lajitas and Terlingua, and maybe as high as 55 for the run into Presidio.  There are numerous winding-road stretches with advisory speeds of 40 or lower.

AIUI, before the Gallegos bills were introduced (Gallegos I providing for 75 limits on two-lane roads and Gallegos II providing for 80 limits on Interstates), Texas operated a system where every state highway was considered to have the statutory maximum speed limits for its type, unless it was otherwise zoned by Texas Transportation Commission minute order.  The TTC was not empowered to issue speed-zoning minute orders with validity longer than six months.  This meant that zoned speed limits in Texas had to be renewed every six months, which I think was typically done by having the commission vote on a new minute order every six months which incorporated all the individual speed limit minute orders by reference.

The Gallegos speed limits work a little differently because they do not alter the underlying statutory maximum speed limits.  They only give TxDOT the power to zone upward (above the statewide maximum limits) by defined amounts in the counties meeting the population thresholds.  I am not sure, but I think the Gallegos limits also have to be done by minute order, and if the relevant minute orders are not renewed, then the speed limits go back to the state maxima (of 70, for cars by day) on Interstates and two-lane rural state highways.

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What Corco describes is one mode of failure for a special referendum question which simply increases the legislative maximum speed limits--the referendum passes, the power to increase limits is given to ODOT, and the powers are simply not used because there is no duty to do so.

is there anyone else to give the power to?  for example, state that "any divided highway with four or more total lanes and no at-grade crossings shall have a speed limit of 80 when it passes through any county with a population density less than X.  any undivided highway with no stops for the mainline (traffic lights, railroads, etc) shall have a speed limit of 75 outside of any developed area ..."

The issue is not really one of to whom the power is given, but rather that the power is given to an agency not disposed to exercise it.  In principle the power to set speed limits could be given to a nondepartmental board independent of both ODOT and the OTC, but if the right to appoint members of that board were vested in the governor, we would still face the same result--no increased speed limits until Kitzhaber leaves (probably in 2015, bar a successful run for a fourth gubernatorial term).

If ODOT, the OTC, the governor or the legislature tried to pull funny business after a statewide referendum directly voted on by the citizens of Oregon enacting higher speeds, it could put them in a politically and possibly legally precarious situation, and if nothing else, it would thrust the issue of speed limits right to the forefront of Oregon politics.

A successful referendum result would definitely raise the stakes, but I can easily see Kitzhaber taking a stand against higher limits, especially if the terms of the referendum question preserved the existing system of engineering review of speed limits.  He would be accepting the risk of being sued or having his legislative allies culled while relying on his personal popularity to ride out the opposition.
Title: Re: Efforts to raise Oregon's speed limits
Post by: agentsteel53 on June 30, 2011, 03:32:39 PM
ODOT actually kinda cheated on this back in '04--instead of doing a proper speed zone investigation, they instead had PSU and OHSU whip up that fishy anti-70mph report and called it good.

which leads back to my original question: how do other states (which likely do not have magically less corrupt governments) avoid this level of bald-faced asshattery?

Title: Re: Efforts to raise Oregon's speed limits
Post by: Alps on June 30, 2011, 11:17:09 PM
no, what I meant was "is there a state that has a maximum on the books that isn't used anywhere?"

To my knowledge, every state has a road posted at the maximum. NJ is interesting - there are specific two-lane highways in rural areas posted at 55 MPH although the statutory maximum for such is 50 MPH. Four-lane roads, especially divided, is obvious, but NJ only has two or three 2-laners up that high.