A new Oregon law allows all 241 cities in the state, as well as Multnomah and Clackamas Counties, to apply for the authority to decide speed limits within their jurisdictions.
Cities in Central Oregon are tapping the brakes on making that decision.
“Local governments wanted the authority to change their speed limits. There were delays of as long as a year to try to get changes in just local speed limits, and this is going to help ease those delays,” ODOT Spokesman Don Hamilton told Central Oregon Daily News on Tuesday.
Normally, it falls to five ODOT investigators to handle speed limit changes across the five regions in the state. This has created a case backlog extending from six months to up to a year.
Although the law was passed last year, the new system has just recently been open to applications from cities.
If the state approves a city’s application, a certified traffic engineer will need to be enlisted to approve or deny all speed limit changes after a thorough analysis.
“It can be for a three-block speed limit change. It can be for the whole course of the city area. It can be whatever course that they want to do,” Hamilton said.
In Bend, the city isn’t hitting the accelerator on pursuing that option.
“They have specialized expertise to do the studies, so there is little advantage to the city to take that on ourselves,” said Assistant City Engineer, Janet Hruby. “It actually might be slower instead of faster because we don’t have dedicated staff to do the studies.”
She said ODOT has taken up to a year to implement speed limit changes in the Bend region, but it still wouldn’t be feasible to have the city shoulder the load.
“There’s sort of a middle ground, that if we were in a position where we’re trying to do something quicker and the schedule with them didn’t work out and we had funding and staffing, we do have the option to go ahead and do the data part of the study to speed it up and submit that,” Hruby said.
A representative from the City of Redmond told Central Oregon Daily News on Tuesday that they have yet to discuss whether to apply for local authority, but they plan to do so soon.
The future could still hold changes.
“The conversation, I would say, still could be open,” Hruby said. “It might look different in the future.”
“The advantage of this is that we hope that each community will be able to get their needs addressed better,” Hamilton said. “And we can get to local control more for them. What do they need? That’s what we need this to be about.”