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Oregon lawmakers consider bill to raise speed limits


It’s 55 miles an hour along most stretches of Highway 97, but that could all change, as lawmakers are working on a bill to increase speeds to 70 miles an hour along rural stretches of Oregon highways.

House Bill 3402 aims to increase speeds for most vehicles up to 70 miles an hour on Highway 97 from Madras to Klamath Falls. Travel along Highway 20 would also become 70 miles an hour. In both cases, vehicles like semi-trucks and buses would have to drive slower.

State Rep. Knute Buehler (R) is a sponsor on the bill. His office sent NewsChannel 21 his statement on backing the bill:

“Over the past two decades, improvements in many of Oregon’s rural highways combined with improved automobile safety and technology make the current speed limits unnecessarily low in selected rural areas of the state. This will help Oregonians explore the beautiful rural parts of Oregon more efficiently and allow businesses to ship their goods quicker to the distant corners of our state.”

Driver Dennis Sheridan said Wednesday he supports increasing speed limits.

“Sounds good — get slower-driving guys in the right lane,” Sheridan said.

But Prineville driver Mikayla Mills said she prefers slower driving in rural areas.

“There’s actually a lot of small hobby farms along Highway 97, so if animals get out, or children are running around, you could potentially hit them,” Mills said.

NewsChannel 21 found both support and opposition from drivers along the highway, but most of the reaction was mixed.

“Not 70, but not 55,” Nancy Krueger said. Her husband, Kenneth, agreed. “I think we’re both in favor of increased speed limit, but not 70,” Kenneth said.

Driver Raymond Asevedo was also torn.

“I would like to see it a little faster,” Asevedo said. “But not too fast.”

It’s important to note the bill would not apply to all sections of the highways. Speed limits on portions of the road running through cities, including Redmond and the Bend Parkway would not likely change. Language in the bill says cities and other authorities can still control speed limits in busy and congested areas.

Washington state is working on similar bills.

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