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ODOT rejects Bend pleas to lower 2 speed limits

By Barney Lerten
Published On: Dec 24 2013 01:45:19 PM CST
Updated On: Nov 16 2013 02:27:48 AM CST
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BEND, Ore. -

A special Oregon Department of Transportation panel has rejected two appeals by the city of Bend for slower speed limits for stretches of 27th Street and Eagle Road, city Traffic Engineer Robin Lewis said Friday.

After hearing the city's request at a hearing in Salem on Thursday, the Speed Zone Review Panel denied a 35 mph speed on 27th Street, so it will remain 45 mph between just north of Copperfield Drive and just south of Stevens Road, Lewis said.

Another request, to lower the speed limit to 30 mph on Eagle Road, also was denied, so that speed zone will be designated as 40 mph between Neff and Butler Market roads, she said.

Lewis, who prepared presentations on the two proposals, said earlier residents had requested the lower speed limit on the roughly one-mile stretch of SE 27th Street south of Bear Creek Road.

"The design of the road is still rural, one lane in each direction, and with all the housing, much more frequent spacing of local driveways and without a center lane, we've seen a lot more rear-end crashes as people stop to make left turns," Lewis said.

Lewis said the city wanted to drop the speed limit from 45 to 35 mph for all of 27th Street, but ODOT only approved it for the stretch north of Copperfield. The city  appealed the location of the transition between 35 and 45 mph, she said, wanting it extended to Stevens Road.

On the affected stretch of Eagle Road, the city proposed dropping the 40 mph speed limit to 30 mph, for different reasons.

"We're not seeing crashes, because the volumes are still pretty low," Lewis said. "Still, the design is pretty poor," with limited sight lines and hills, one with a street at the top drivers can't see until you are there. 

"The potential for crashes is there," she said. "As there are more residential uses, a lot of local street connections are occurring. Along with no left-turn lane, also there's no shoulder or bike lanes, so no place for folks to walk or bike. People walk in the street, with traffic zipping past them."

Jim Wellock, who lives off 27th Street, said, "You can't have people outside the community determining what our speed limits are. I think that's what the statement is. These people come for a couple of hours, view these streets for a short period of time -- then they go back and make a judgment. We live here."

Wellock said he believed the city did everything it could to get the speed reduced, although he added that the reduction might not be needed if police better enforced the current speed limit.

In Oregon, decisions regarding speed zones are made jointly by the Oregon Department of Transportation and the authority governing the road, such as a city or a county.

ODOT has the responsibility to investigate roads for establishing new speed zones or changing posted speeds of existing speed zones. ODOT performs these investigations at the request of the road authority.

If the recommended speed is of mutual agreement between ODOT and the local road authority, the speed zone is established. If mutual agreement cannot be reached, the speed zone decision is referred to the Speed Zone Review Panel.

The Oregon Speed Zone Review Panel is comprised of representatives from the Transportation Safety Committee, the Oregon State Police, the Association of Oregon Counties, the League of Oregon Cities and ODOT.

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