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Oregon Editors Say:

A waste of time

ODOT spent a year studying because lawmakers couldn't agree

The (Albany) Democrat-Herald

It's unfortunate that the Oregon Department of Transportation feels the posted speed limits on Interstate 5 and other freeways can't be raised to conform more closely to the actual average speed.

The department says it could support the idea of raising the speed limit for cars to 70 mph, as the Legislature suggested. But it says the limit for trucks should not be more than 60. And since the 2003 legislation says that where appropriate, the limit should be raised to 65 mph for trucks, ODOT's state traffic engineer is recommending that for the most part, the existing speed limits for both cars and trucks be left where they are.

The Legislature could have saved ODOT the trouble of spending nearly a year studying this issue if it had simply acted to raise the limits to a reasonable level. But many Democrats, especially in the Senate, opposed even the watered-down bill that finally passed last year. So a straight bill to raise the limit could not have passed.

Maybe ODOT read the signs correctly.

There was no enthusiasm for a straight increase in the freeway speed limit. And since it is obviously safer to go slow, the department figured there's no great urgency or public purpose in raising the limits.

— All of this makes almost no difference to drivers. They learned long ago that by and large, if they drive at a reasonable speed, they will be all right and will not have to worry about getting a ticket. So many of them drive pretty much at the speed for which the freeways were designed in the 1960s ' a little above 70 mph.

ODOT's conclusion that anything above 60 for trucks is not safe is not supported by real life. Most trucks move down the road at 65 or above, and since they do not usually crash, it must be reasonably safe to do so.

A reader recently suggested that Oregon go back to the basic rule as the main guide for freeway speeds. The rule said you must not drive faster than is safe under the circumstances. That's a good idea; it would end the freeway speed debate right there.