PORTLAND, Ore. (KOIN) – Oregon cities and two Oregon counties can now make their own changes when it comes to changing speed limits within their jurisdictions.
In 2021, Oregon lawmakers passed House Bill 3055. It’s a 77-page bill filled with changes to state transportation laws. One of those changes grants more local control when it comes to determining speed limits.
“Once the cities or the counties receive the authority to do this, it should speed things up a little bit,” said ODOT spokesperson Don Hamilton. “It should give the local governments a little more control over what they do.”
The state recently completed its administrative rules regarding the new law and with those done, the new law is now in effect.
Before the change, all cities and counties had to go through Oregon’s state traffic roadway engineer to request any changes to speed limits. Hamilton said this could be a lengthy process and that the Speed Control Board only met once or twice a year to discuss changes because they had so few speed investigators.
Currently, there are only five speed investigators in the state, one for each region.
ODOT hopes this change will be a better system for everyone, taking the pressure off the Speed Control Board and placing more control in the hands of local governments.
The new law applies to all 241 cities in Oregon and the unincorporated parts of Multnomah and Clackamas County. Unincorporated parts of other counties will still need to rely on state officials if they hope to make any speed limit changes.
A city hoping to change a speed limit will be required to complete an application for the state to grant the city authority to set its own speed limits.
If the city’s application is approved and authority is granted, the city will then need to decide what its process will be like for determining how a speed limit is decided. The city could ask a board that already exists to take on the authority or could create a new board or new position to oversee the process.
As an example, Hamilton used Southwest Hall Boulevard in Tigard. He said the city has been considering lowering the speed on a stretch of the roadway from 35 to 30 mph. If the city applies for the authority to change its own speed limits and is granted authority, it could go ahead and make the change without waiting on the state.
Cities could also increase speeds if they want to.
The applications to the local authority requesting a speed limit change should be very detailed and specific, Hamilton said.
When a city or Multnomah or Clackamas counties make a speed limit change, they are required by law to provide written notice of the change to ODOT. The new speed will be effective 30 days after the department receives the notice.
There are, however, certain areas where speed limits cannot be changed. Oregon roads have statutory and designated speed limits in certain areas. These statutory speed limits are set by state law.
For example, in residential districts, the speed limit must be 25 mph. In school zones, it must be 25 mph and on most interstates, the speed limit is capped at 65 mph.
These designated speed limits are set by an engineering investigation and Hamilton said cities won’t be able to change them.
ODOT said all designated speed limits, whether they’re set by ODOT or the delegated authority of a city or county, will follow the same procedures and guidelines.