BEND, OR -- Oregon highway speeds increased to 65 MPH in many areas, just three months ago. But, the Oregon Department of Transportation is lowering them in some areas in Central Oregon.
ODOT's Peter Murphy tells KBND News the agency decided some trouble spots on Highway 97 and Highway 20 should return to 55 MPH, after further analysis. "We had to conform to the law, so we did that and raised the speed limits. And now, we're taking a step back and looking at what the impact of that was. Our decision was to make the speed limit change between Madras and Terrebonne." Also included on the list is a one-mile stretch of Highway 97 on the south end of La Pine, "Then U.S. 20 from Bend, east to Dodds Road, about six miles. And then, out on the far side of the state in Vale, we did the same thing on 11 miles of U.S. 20," says Murphy.
He says the change is due to continuing safety concerns on those four stretches of rural highway. "In many cases, there are access routes to the highway - driveways, usually - and these access points are points of congestion and people are trying to get through. What you have is a small space for people to try and move their car into the queue or into the ongoing traffic." Four members of one family were killed in a crash south of Madras last month, while waiting to make a left turn from Highway 97 onto a side road.
Speed reductions won't take effect until new 55 MPH signs are installed over the next two to three weeks. And, Murphy says, there's no guarantee the change will be permanent, "We enact that temporary change for a year. Then, during this year, we'll reaffirm the information that we had, or maybe find out something new; then either change it on our own or run it up the flagpole to the Speed Board panel and see what they have to say, which will likely reaffirm our decision."