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Author Topic: Efforts to raise Oregon's speed limits  (Read 21019 times)

xonhulu

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Re: Efforts to raise Oregon's speed limits
« Reply #25 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.
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Re: Efforts to raise Oregon's speed limits
« Reply #26 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.
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J N Winkler

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Re: Efforts to raise Oregon's speed limits
« Reply #27 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?
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Re: Efforts to raise Oregon's speed limits
« Reply #28 on: June 29, 2011, 12:46:25 AM »

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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.
« Last Edit: June 29, 2011, 12:54:18 AM by corco »
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J N Winkler

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Re: Efforts to raise Oregon's speed limits
« Reply #29 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.

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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.
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Tarkus

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Re: Efforts to raise Oregon's speed limits
« Reply #30 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. 
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xonhulu

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Re: Efforts to raise Oregon's speed limits
« Reply #31 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.
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Re: Efforts to raise Oregon's speed limits
« Reply #32 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.
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Re: Efforts to raise Oregon's speed limits
« Reply #33 on: June 29, 2011, 05:29:29 PM »

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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

xonhulu

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Re: Efforts to raise Oregon's speed limits
« Reply #34 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.
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agentsteel53

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Re: Efforts to raise Oregon's speed limits
« Reply #35 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?
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J N Winkler

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Re: Efforts to raise Oregon's speed limits
« Reply #36 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.
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Tarkus

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Re: Efforts to raise Oregon's speed limits
« Reply #37 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 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.
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Re: Efforts to raise Oregon's speed limits
« Reply #38 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.)
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Re: Efforts to raise Oregon's speed limits
« Reply #39 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 ...
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Re: Efforts to raise Oregon's speed limits
« Reply #40 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.
« Last Edit: June 30, 2011, 02:44:34 PM by Tarkus »
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J N Winkler

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Re: Efforts to raise Oregon's speed limits
« Reply #41 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.

Quote
Quote
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.
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Re: Efforts to raise Oregon's speed limits
« Reply #42 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?

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Re: Efforts to raise Oregon's speed limits
« Reply #43 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.

 


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