Bill would raise Oregon speed limits

| Wednesday, May 04, 2005

An effort to increase the speed limit for cars and trucks on rural interstate highways has again reared its head in Oregon. However, it isn’t expected to gain enough momentum to push it through the Legislature.

The bill would increase the speed limit on certain sections of rural interstates to 60 mph for trucks and 70 mph for cars. Those limits are currently 55 and 65, respectively.

Supporters of the effort say it reflects the will of the people and current driving practices. Opponents, however, say raising the speed limit would increase traffic fatalities and put all drivers in greater danger.

The chairman of the House Transportation Committee said HB3252 is likely dead for the session.

“I’ll have to talk to my caucus members,” Rep. George Gilman, R-Medford, told the Mail Tribune. “But I don’t think this is going to come out because it is too broadly written.”

For the past several sessions, similar efforts also have fallen short.

In 2003, however, lawmakers approved a bill authorizing trucks to travel 65 mph and cars to go 70 mph on rural interstates. The law didn’t directly increase speeds, instead leaving it up to the Oregon Department of Transportation to determine whether it would be safe to increase the speed on a specific stretch of highway.

The department later concluded raising the speed limit would result in an increased number of deaths and injuries.

“Speed limit increases are the wrong thing to do,” Troy Costales, transportation safety manager of ODOT, recently reiterated.

Oregon is the only state west of the Mississippi River with rural interstate speed limits for cars below 70 mph. Iowa Gov. Tom Vilsack signed a bill into law last month that will increase speed limits for all drivers in the state as of July 1 from 65 mph to 70 mph.

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