Oregon governor signs speed limit bill

| 9/30/2003

Gov. Ted Kulongoski has signed legislation clearing the way for increased speed limits on Oregon’s freeways.

The speed limit measure, which takes effect Jan. 1, allows the Oregon Transportation Department to raise the speed limit on certain sections of rural interstates to 65 mph for trucks and 70 mph for cars. Those limits are currently 55 and 65, respectively.

The bill’s passage doesn’t guarantee higher speeds.

“It should be made clear to the public that the legislation itself requires that speeds can be raised only if engineering and traffic investigation indicates that a speed increase is reasonable and safe,” Kulongoski wrote in a letter to Oregon Transportation Commission Chair Stuart Foster after signing the bill Sept. 26. “In other words, HB2661 mandates that speeds be increased only if objective evidence exists that an increase is reasonable and safe.”

Rep. Randy Miller, R-Lake Oswego, tried and failed several times over the past decade to introduce similar bills, but then-Gov. John Kitzhaber blocked all of them. Kitzhaber feared faster speeds would lead to more highway deaths, The Bend Bulletin reported.

Todd Spencer, executive vice president of the Owner-Operator Independent Drivers Association, which sought the aid of professional truck drivers to influence lawmakers and the governor to endorse the legislation reducing the speed gap, said the bill benefits highway safety.

“While we would have preferred the legislation totally eliminate the split between cars and trucks, a 5 mph differential is better than 10. In addition, I suspect the higher limits will result in less speed variance between cars since a 70 mph limit will more closely match speeds already being driven,” Spencer said.

The new law also allows the department to change freeway speeds in urban areas, where the limit now is 55 mph, Salem, OR’s KATU reported.

--by Keith Goble, staff writer

Keith Goble can be reached at kgoble@landlinemag.com.