Oregon bills could widen car-truck speed disparity

By Keith Goble, Land Line state legislative editor | 4/20/2015

An Oregon Senate panel is scheduled to continue discussion today on a bill that could increase speed limits on rural interstates while maintaining, and possibly widening, the current speed differential between cars and trucks.

State law now authorizes motorists to drive 65 mph on affected stretches. Large trucks, however, are kept slower at 55 mph.

A bill in the Senate Business and Transportation Committee could increase the speed limit on rural stretches of interstate for personal vehicles to 70 mph. Truck speeds could increase to 60 mph, but a provision in the bill permits the Oregon Department of Transportation to keep truck speeds unchanged – creating up to a 15-mph speed differential.

Sponsored by Sen. Floyd Prozanski, D-Eugene, the bill is set to get a second hearing Monday afternoon.

During a hearing earlier this month, Prozanski said the bill would authorize a reasonable request. He noted that neighboring Washington and California already have maximum speeds for cars set at 70 mph.

“(The bill) would be accommodating to make sure the interstate on the West Coast going north to south would be the same at 70 mph.”

Supporters also say the changes would more closely reflect the actual driving speed of most Oregon motorists and keep the state’s interstate system safe and reduce travel times.

Troy Costales, ODOT safety division administrator, urged caution on any change. He said faster speeds result in more fatalities and serious injury crashes. In addition, he said the rural areas that would be affected by the bill do not have emergency services readily available.

The Owner-Operator Independent Drivers Association opposes efforts such as SB459, which maintain a differential in car and truck speeds.

Mike Matousek, OOIDA’s director of state legislative affairs, has said that roadways are safer when all vehicles are permitted to travel at the same rate of speed.

“Differential speed limits create more interactions between cars and trucks, which can lead to an increase in the number and severity of accidents. They are also a contributing factor to increased congestion, carbon emissions, and inefficiencies with local, regional, and national goods movement.”

A separate bill in the Oregon House calls for widening the speed differential between cars and trucks to as much as 20 mph.

HB3094 would permit cars to travel 75 mph on interstates and 65 mph on other state highways while keeping trucks at 55 mph on both roadways.

Sponsored by Rep. Greg Barreto, R-Cove, the bill is in the House Transportation and Economic Development Committee.

To view other legislative activities of interest for Oregon, click here.

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