A perspective from Oregon’s mid-Willamette Valley

New speed limits: Expect little change

Written March 2nd, 2024 by Hasso Hering

Feb. 24 was a sunny day on Columbus St. S.E., and the posted speed limit was still 40 mph.

If they haven’t already, Albany city crew members will shortly change speed limit signs on the Waverly Drive and Columbus Street corridor from Santiam Highway south to the city limit.

But don’t expect much change, if any, in the usual speed of traffic on that route. How fast or slow people drive depends mostly on road conditions and what drivers think is safe at the time.

ODOT, which is responsible for setting speed limits on arterial streets, conducted a speed study on Waverly/Columbus at the city’s request.

On the half-mile stretch of Waverly between Salem Avenue and Santiam Highway, the study found that 70 percent of the traffic was going between 24 and 33 mph. ODOT traffic engineers call that 10-mile bracket the “pace limit,” the range of speeds driven by most drivers.

The posted speed is 25, and that’s where the ODOT order left it. (Surprisingly, even though it was posted, the limit had not previously been set.)

On the nearly three miles south of Santiam Highway, the order lowered the limit from 40 to 35 mph. ODOT found that 70 percent of cars there were going between 33 and 42 mph, making that the pace limit, while 29 percent exceeded the posted 40 mph.

And on the half-mile of Columbus from Oak Creek south to the city line, the new limit will be 40 mph. In the study, the pace limit bracketing 70 percent of the traffic was 48-57 mph. Some 29 percent were clocked at faster than 55.

The study had been requested by the city’s Transportation Advisory Commission, and the limits in the new speed order are what the study recommended.

After riding along southeast Columbus on the bike last week, I asked Ron Irish, Albany’s transportation systems analyst, whether lowering the limits by 5 mph was likely to make a difference in the usual speed of motor traffic on that long and straight corridor.

His reply:

Absent a sustained enforcement effort, reducing a posted speed limit doesn’t generally have a significant effect on vehicle speeds. A few drivers will drop their speeds in response to the new signs, but most will continue to drive at the speed they are comfortable at. That’s one of the reasons that pace limits played a large role in setting the study’s recommendations. By doing that ODOT’s intent was to recommend a speed limit close to what drivers are currently traveling at.”

In short, the new limits are about the same as what the most drivers are already doing. Sounds like a sensible way to make laws. (hh)

5 responses to “New speed limits: Expect little change”

  1. Cap B. says:

    So, Hasso, in your Libertarian mind, and apparently that of the state and city lawmakers, if everyone is comfortable driving 90 miles an hour, that is okie dokie! Just fine, that is.
    To heck with all the carnage when accidents happen??

    • Al Nyman says:

      They probably shouldn’t let you drive as you are probably one of the vigilantes who drives 5mph under the speed limit even if it’s 25mph. Are you also one of the vigilantes who never make a right turn on a red light?

    • JIMMY says:

      Wow, a mind reader and expert on libertarian thought!
      Not exactly correct.
      Libertarians, like the infamous Mr. G. of posting fame with the DH, generally accept property owners establishing binding rules of behavior on their property.Since the government owns this property the government is entitled to establish rules of behavior on the roads it owns. These are called traffic laws.

  2. Karen says:

    I am more interested in how they are going to continue to provide access to this street once all the several hundred (between Henshaw “Farms” and the additions at the Mennonite Home community) new housing units are in place.There are two neighborhoods that each have only a single traffic access point, both onto Columbus/Waverly, with no alternative routes in or out.

  3. Grape Ape says:

    The other road they need to look at is 34th Ave. There is at 3 schools near this road and speed limit of 35 which people go way faster then there’s the area by 7-11 that floods over half the street when it rains. My fear is that with the current speed and no one slows down until last minute that a child mine or anyone else’s child would be seriously injured or death. I think speed limit from 7-11 to Waverly should be 25 at all times. Just today there were to rear-end accidents one right after the other one in each lane of traffic. Or eliminate driver distraction but now a days cars have more distraction installed in them wish manufacturers would stop adding more and more distraction. Like GPS should only be heard unless brake is pressed I have GPS in my vehicle and i darkened the screen so I don’t see the maps


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