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Taking Control: Portland’s Path to Establishing Own Speed Limits

Portland auto accident attorney

As of January 1, 2020, cities across Oregon were granted the authority to lower speed limits by five mph on highways located in residential districts (not including arterial highways). The authority for cities to set speed limits is still limited, however.

The Oregon Joint Committee on Transportation recently voted 10-2 on House Bill 4103, which would authorize the Oregon Department of Transportation (ODOT) to allow cities and counties to establish their own speed limits.

How will the speed limits in Portland be impacted?

HB 4103 was introduced as a continuation of HB 2702, which was ushered in by House Representative Rob Nosse (D-Southeast Portland) in 2019. That bill would have given Portland the authority to set its own highway speed limits, but it never made it out of the committee. HB 2702 was influenced by the Portland Bureau of Transportation’s ongoing efforts to reduce the speed limit throughout the city.

“In a big city like mine, where there are more and more people, more and more cars, more traffic — the local jurisdiction needs to be the one to take responsibility for figuring out how fast someone should be allowed to drive,” said Nosse. “I believe we should be setting the speed limit based on how fast motorists should be driving in dense urban neighborhoods, not on how fast people want to drive.”

The efforts of lawmakers is a response to ODOT’s inefficient and ineffective approach to addressing speed limit changes. It can currently take ODOT up to nine months to respond to a speed limit change request. That’s because the agency determines “safe” speed limits on the 85th percentile speed drivers are traveling. Portland has been advocating for the authority to promptly set its own speed limits (independent of ODOT) for more than a decade.

Lawmakers will vote on HB 4103 in March. If it becomes law, it will become effective on October 1, 2020. It will apply to only two counties: Lane and Multnomah (home of Portland).

Why are high speed limits a problem in Portland?

Oregon has seen a four percent increase in traffic fatalities from 2018-2019, according to the National Safety Council. In 2019, approximately 489 people were killed in traffic collisions in the Beaver State. Speed is one of the leading factors in fatal crashes.

Higher speed limits encourage drivers to travel faster. This not only increases the likelihood of a crash being serious or deadly, but it also gives drivers less time to avoid a collision entirely. In dense cities like Portland, pedestrians and bicyclists are especially at risk. Lowering the speed limits in Portland will likely help reduce the number of serious and fatal crashes that happen throughout our city.

If you or a loved one was hurt in a crash caused by a speeding driver. The car accident attorneys at Zbinden & Curtis, Attorneys At Law can help you take legal actions. We have been serving clients in the Portland area for more than 30 years. Contact us online to set up your free case evaluation with one of our attorneys.

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