Why increase residential speed limits?
The explanation provided by former Oregon City Public Works director, Ms. Kraushaar, was that this increase in the speed limit was the result of an ODOT speed zone study, and the city's only role was to recommend and install warning signs. This response by members of the city staff, that the speed increase on these residential streets were ODOT's sole jurisdiction, are very misleading and false. The 35 mph speed was not forced on the city by ODOT but was the desired, and more importantly, requested speed of the Oregon City Public Works Department.
Oregon City residents and our elected public officials did not understand the process for establishing speeds on city streets, and were unaware of the options available in the establishment of those speeds. I wish to clarify this confusion regarding the process and the terms, and to elaborate upon them in the discussion to follow.
1) The governing body of an incorporated city is the road authority for all highways, roads, streets and alleys, other than state highways, within the boundaries of the incorporated city.
2) Before a speed zone investigation can begin, the city must give ODOT a written request. The city's request must state the speed the city recommends. ODOT cannot perform a speed zone investigation on any city street, nor propose a change in the speed zoning without the city's request to do so.
3) ODOT is subject to guidelines when determining the recommended speed. One is that the recommended speed may be varied a maximum of 10 mph above or below the computed speed on city streets, county roads and state highways within the city limits.
4) Minor arterials are described in the Oregon City Transportation Plan. Several requirements are that sidewalks and bicycle lanes are required, and the speed limit is less than on major arterials. It should be noted Myers Road, Leland Road and Linn Avenue do not meet these requirements, the posted speed of 35 mph is equal to, and greater than the posted speed on the major arterial, Molalla Avenue, and bike lanes and sidewalks are mainly absent along these streets.
There was considerable public comment regarding the speed increases on the affected streets after Public Works had accepted the ODOT recommendations, and the establishment of these speed changes April 16, 2007. The first public comments were on June 6, 2007. In his presentation before the City Commission, Bill Daniels noted that residents first received notification of the speed increases when they read about them in the newspaper. A number of the residents only became aware of the speed changes after the new speed signage was installed.
I have produced a detailed and completely referenced document describing the speed increase on Linn Avenue. The body of the piece is an eight-page double spaced commentary, with approximately 45 pages of reference material. Public involvement in the process is falsely implied in two documents. The Speed Zone Request form sent to ODOT, and a Public Works document "timeline" sent to then-Oregon State Sen. Kurt Schrader. The two anonymous phone calls that were used as justification for speed zone studies are invalid, such requests can only be valid if they are from residents. The staff explanation, that the speed changes were the result of an ODOT speed study is an example of lying by omission, and was used to confuse elected officials and the general public. The residential streets affected by the speed increase are termed by Public Works as minor arterials, though they each fail to meet the requirements for classification as minor arterials.
To rectify this flawed and dishonest process will require the city of Oregon City to present "just cause" to a panel comprised of representatives from the Oregon Transportation committee, the Oregon State Police, the Association of Oregon Counties, the League of Oregon Cities and ODOT.
Just cause is:
1) the complete lack of public representation,
2) the misleading and false statements on two legal documents: The Speed Zone Request form submitted by Mr. Frazier, and the Public Works document submitted by Ms. Kraushaar, both suggesting public input when there was no public input.
3) Myers Road, Leland Road and Linn Avenue do not meet the physical criteria to be termed minor arterials. All three of these streets are residential, and 35 mph is simply excessive.
4) The Road Authority is the government of an incorporated city, not one branch of the city government, as occurred in this instance. The elected officials and the citizens were intentionally excluded from any input prior to the initiation and acceptance of the 35 mph "corridor" through predominately residential neighborhoods.
The dysfunction brought to light by the document I have written indicates Oregon City government requires repair if the government of Oregon City is to function correctly and fairly. The "ends justify the means" culture needs to be amended to one of openness, honesty and inclusiveness.
I will be happy to provide the complete document to those wishing to read the in-depth study I have produced.