A new law allows incorporated cities in Oregon to apply for the authority to set speed limits in their communities. (Photo by Garrett Aitken/Getty Images via Canva)

Philomath’s residential development over the past few years has impacted traffic patterns for vehicles, bicyclists and pedestrians. As such, it seems possible that the city might want to take a look at lowering speed limits in some of those areas.

A new law went into effect this year that allows the process for a city to lower a speed limit much easier. In the past, speed limit change requests had to go through the state traffic roadway engineer and the process could be lengthy. The Oregon Department of Transportation has one investigator for each of its five regions and a case backlog could extend as long as six months to a year.

That information comes directly from ODOT.

“Providing local governments with the authority to set their own speed limits should make the process quicker, more effective and more responsive to local needs,” the agency said. “Under the new law, any of Oregon’s 241 incorporated cities or the two Portland area counties may seek this new authority from the state. They would then get training in state speed zone practices, state rules and laws and would produce a quality control plan.”

I haven’t reached out to the city of Philomath to see if there is interest in taking a look at local speed zones but I’m sure this is something that will come up in the future. 

“Speed is a major factor in road crashes,” ODOT said. “Making it easier and quicker for communities to lower their local speed limits will help reduce deadly crashes and reduce the impact on communities of color, which often bear an outsized brunt of highway crashes.”

Oregon roads have statutory and designated speed limits. Statutory speed limits are set by state law, such as 25 mph in residential districts, 20 mph in school zones and 65 mph on most interstates. Designated speed limits, set by an engineering investigation, differ from the statutory speed limits.

“If a statutory speed limit is not appropriate, a designated speed limit can be established through an engineering study,” ODOT said. “That study is based upon nationally accepted standards and includes a review of roadway characteristics and the type of users. These characteristics include traffic volume, crash history, roadside development and density and operating speeds.”

Of course, the big factor with all of this is safety.

“The posted speed should inform motorists of maximum driving speeds that are considered safe and reasonable for a roadway section under favorable weather and visibility conditions,” ODOT said.

(Brad Fuqua is publisher/editor of the Philomath News. He can be reached at News@PhilomathNews.com).

Brad Fuqua, Philomath News

Brad Fuqua has covered the Philomath area since 2014 as the editor of the now-closed Philomath Express and currently as publisher/editor of the Philomath News. He has worked as a professional journalist since 1988 at daily and weekly newspapers in Nebraska, Kansas, North Dakota, Arizona, Montana and Oregon.