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Speed limits are determined by many factors

I have a question about the speed limit on East Main Street in Medford. The posted speed limit is 30 mph as you head east out of downtown and stays that way until a few blocks after you crest the hill near Keene Way. Then it's 35 mph until East Main hits the Valley View Road intersection and the speed goes down to 25 mph. Why does the speed increase to 35 mph for such a short distance? It must save a driver about three seconds, and it bumps up the speed in the midst of one of Medford's historic neighborhoods. It's interesting to note that a lot of drivers don't even go that fast there — they seem to have more concern for the neighborhood than the city does.

— Louise H., Medford

Louise, speed limits are determined, not by the age of a particular neighborhood, but by traffic volumes, crash rates, roadway alignment and roadside culture, to name a few factors.

For the most part, Oregon statutes dictate the speed limits of alleys (15 mph), business districts and school zones (20 mph), residential districts and public parks (25 mph), open and rural highways (55 mph) and interstate highways (65 mph).

Oregon Department of Transportation’s traffic engineer classifies other types of roadways based on the aforementioned factors and calculates how fast 85 percent of people are driving on that street to determine their comfort level before making a speed recommendation to the local agency.

“For the most part, we agree with their recommendations,” said Alex Georgevitch, deputy public works director and city engineer.

As for East Main Street, the speed limit is 20 mph downtown (the statutory limit) and gradually increases as the street becomes less congested and the number of access points (such as driveways) decreases. After Valley View Road, East Main becomes a residential street, and the speed limit drops to the statutory limit of 25 mph, Georgevitch explained.

In 2011, an individual requested that the speed between Genessee Street and Berkeley Way be reduced, so the state traffic engineer conducted an analysis of that section of the road but, in the end, recommended that the speed limit be left at 30 mph.

Louise, if you’re serious about reducing the speed limit, you’re welcome to fill out and submit the citizen traffic request form available on the city's Public Works Department website at www.ci.medford.or.us/Page.asp?NavID=1682.

“If the public comes to us and requests that we change the speed, we go to the state Speed Zone Review Panel and request that they analyze it,” Georgevitch said. “But it is a three- to four-month process.”

Send questions to “Since You Asked,” Mail Tribune Newsroom, P.O. Box 1108, Medford, OR 97501; by fax to 541-776-4376; or by email to youasked@mailtribune.com. To see a collection of columns, go to mailtribune.com/youasked. We’re sorry, but the volume of questions received prevents us from answering all of them.