Oregon governor OKs law that could increase split speed differential

| 7/19/2005

Gov. Ted Kulongoski signed a bill into law July 14 that could widen the speed gap for cars and trucks on Oregon’s rural interstate highways. The effort breezed through the Legislature.

Under the law, local officials may request a change in speeds within a specific area. ODOT would then review any requested change and follow it up with a public meeting and updated speed study in the affected area.

There have not yet been any requests to modify speed limits.

The new rule, previously HB3252, would allow for truck speed limits to increase from 55 mph to as much as 65 mph while increasing car speeds from 65 mph to 70 mph on certain sections of rural interstates.

However, it leaves the door open for car speeds to increase while truck speeds stay the same, Patrick Cooney, a commission spokesman, told Land Line.

The latest version of the speed limit rule differs from an earlier one in that a rate lower than 65 mph could be posted for tractor-trailers and other large vehicles if safety conditions warrant a slower speed.

The Oregon Transportation Commission would have the option of setting a 65, 60 or 55 mph limit for trucks, Cooney said. They did not have this flexibility in the first bill.

Kulongoski signed that measure into law in 2003. However, a study conducted by the Transportation Commission later advised against boosting the current speed limit for cars and trucks on rural interstates.

The study said that while it was reasonable to raise car limits to 70 mph, “the engineering analysis supports a speed limit of 60 mph for trucks and not a higher limit.”

Because the two speeds were linked in the rule, the commission decided not to bump the limits.

By Keith Goble, state legislative editor