Wednesday, May 18, 2011

Oregon speeds are a joke

Oregon lawmakers sure do know how to stand out in a crowd. No. I’m not saying you are sure to spot them because they all wear rain ponchos. And I’m not saying you can pick them out wearing their flannel shirts.

I think it is fair to say they stick out like a sore thumb in how they view speed limits.

While the benefits of setting uniform speeds for cars and trucks are being touted in states that include Illinois and Texas, two Oregon state lawmakers released a statement and proclaimed that “Oregon’s speed limit is behind the times.” I could not agree with that comment more.

I might even go as far as to say Oregon’s speed limit is a joke.

Oregon law now authorizes cars to travel 65 mph on rural interstates while trucks are limited to 55 mph – a speed differential of 10 mph.

Unlike efforts in other states to eliminate, or at least reduce, speed differentials, Republican Senators Jason Atkinson of Central Point and Bruce Starr of Hillsboro have announced their intentions to pursue a change that would widen Oregon’s speed gap to 15 mph. If approved, cars could cruise along at 75 mph while trucks could drive 60 mph.

How’s that for standing out in a crowd? Oregon could soon join California as the only states with a 15-mph differential on portions of roadway.

Here is what Sen. Atkinson had to say about the proposed change:

“Oregon is the only state west of the Mississippi with highway and interstate speed limits less than 70 miles per hour (for cars). People have to play by different rules along I-5 and in rural areas when they travel from state to state. Business and commerce suffer as a result.”

I would argue that commerce will continue to suffer. Of course, it would be nice to travel a little faster, but I cannot imagine any safety benefits for truckers and others. It sure doesn’t sound safe trying to navigate around vehicles traveling 15 mph slower than the majority of traffic.

Nevertheless, it appears to be business as usual at the Oregon statehouse. While we have seen more and more states move to eliminate, or at least reduce speed differentials, Oregon is content to be one of a handful of states to mandate at least a 10-mph speed gap between cars and trucks.

Finally, I highlight a comment from Sen. Starr. You would think he supports my argument.

“Oregon is the odd one out when it comes to the nation’s speed limits.”

I couldn’t have said it better myself. Unfortunately, he is calling for changes that would widen the state’s speed limit differential.

As far as I’m concerned that is a bad joke.