Oregon effort reverses trend on speed limits

By Keith Goble, Land Line state legislative editor | Friday, May 13, 2011

Bucking a trend nationally to reduce or eliminate speed differentials between cars and trucks, two Oregon state lawmakers are looking to widen their state’s speed gap.

Republican Senators Jason Atkinson of Central Point and Bruce Starr of Hillsboro announced plans this week to amend a neighborhood speed bill to include a provision to allow all vehicles to travel a little bit faster on rural stretches of interstates.

Oregon law now authorizes cars to travel 65 mph on rural interstates while trucks are limited to 55 mph – a speed differential of 10 mph.

The senators want to use a bill in the Senate Business, Transportation and Economic Development Committee to widen the speed gap between cars and trucks to 15 mph. If approved, cars could cruise along at 75 mph along affected stretches. Truck traffic would get a 5 mph bump to 60 mph.

The Oregon lawmakers are not alone in their pursuit of speed limit changes. Other states addressing speed limits this year include California, Illinois, Kansas, Maine and Texas. In each state, legislation being pursued would increase speeds for all vehicles, or eliminate or reduce speed differentials.

Atkinson said the move would make Oregon more competitive with surrounding states. He said it would benefit business and commerce.

Oregon is the only state west of the Mississippi River with speed limits for cars below 70 mph. California is the only other state with truck speeds at 55 mph. The Golden State is also the only state with speed differentials of 15 mph on portions of interstate.

The likelihood that a speed limit increase will be signed into law is not considered to be high. Gov. John Kitzhaber vetoed a bill during his previous term as governor that would've increased the state’s speed limit. He recently indicated that he remains opposed to higher speeds.

Kitzhaber, a former doctor, is concerned higher speeds would encourage drivers to travel even faster, making the roads more dangerous.

The Owner-Operator Independent Drivers Association encourages Oregon truckers to communicate with members of the Senate transportation committee about the importance of eliminating, or at least minimizing, any differential speed limit.

The proposed speed amendment is A6.

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

Editor’s Note: Please share your thoughts with us about the legislation included in this story. Comments may be sent to statelegislativedesk@ooida.com.

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