BEND, OR -- Oregon’s Department of Transportation is in the process of implementing major changes to speeds allowed on rural highways. And, ODOT’s Peter Murphy tells KBND, that includes major roadways in Central Oregon. "The speed limit on most of Highway 97 will be 65 MPH; not here in the city, in the more rural areas – south of town, for example, then from Redmond to Madras, and also on the stretch between Bend and Redmond. So, people will legally be driving faster."
Murphy says preparations are already underway, "Passing lanes, passing zones are changing because as you go faster you need more room and we don’t have that kind of room on some of our highways. And then there are curves, for example, that are marked for whatever speed they are. And, if you’re now traveling 65 instead of 55, you’re approaching the curve a little faster, so you have to put the warning signs further away from the curve."
When the new speed signs go up March first, they will alert drivers of the maximum speed limit. Current signs only show the basic rule speed, without a "limit."
Murphy says the increased speed brings an increased need for caution. "The energy related to the crash, for example, between 55 and 65 MPH is not a direct linear equation; it’s exponential. The energy is by a square greater when you collide. It’s much more dangerous."