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Deschutes County appeals ODOT move, seeks to affirm Butler Market Road 50 mph speed limit

(Update: adding video, comments from county, ODOT officials)

Signs show 50 mph speed limit, but ODOT speed study backed making it 55

BEND, Ore. (KTVZ) -- Deschutes County will make a rare appeal to the Oregon speed zone appeal panel next week.

It wants to reduce the speed limit on a stretch of road northeast of Bend from what an Oregon Department of Transportation speed study suggested. 

The speed limit signs on the section of Butler Market Road currently read 50 miles per hour.

But ODOT found that based on current traffic, the speed limit should be 55.

ODOT Region 4 spokesman Peter Murphy told NewsChannel 21 on Tuesday, “Zero to 85 percent of the drivers travel 57 miles per hour or less on that stretch of the highway.”

The speed study was requested by Deschutes County to confirm the posted limit of 50 mph.

Chris Doty, director of the Deschutes County Road Department, said, “We have some issues with the findings that they made in that report.”

The posted speed limit signs on the stretch of road are actually wrong. ODOT rescinded the 50 mph speed limit in 2003, raising it to 55 mph, or the "basic rule: speed, but the signs were never changed.  

“Those signs have been there for probably 30 years,” Doty said.

Doty disagreed with the ODOT finding, because he said the road should still be considered suburban.

“We think they didn’t consider the context of the roadside culture out there,” he said. “We have a lot of residential driveways. There’s a school in the middle of that road segment.”

The two-mile stretch, between Hamehook Road and the Powell butte Highway, also connects Bend to the city’s airport.

A decision on the speed limit will now come from the Oregon Speed Zone Review Panel.

"Let's just move forward, collect the information from the different perspectives and try to find out what works best, and that's what the speed panel is for," Murphy said.

The Oregon Speed Zone Review Panel will hold a hearing at 1 p.m. on Wednesday, Nov. 3 virtually through TEAMS (Join Microsoft Teams Meeting +1 971-277-1965   United States, Portland (Toll) Conference ID: 546 527 204#).

The panel also will discuss speed zoning on the Burnside Bridge and approaches, and the Hawthorne Bridge and ramps/SE Madison Street ramp in Multnomah County.

ODOT also will present draft rules for changes in the speed zoning procedures and get feedback from the Speed Zone Review Panel.

The meeting is open to the public. Accommodations will be provided to persons with disabilities. To request an accommodation, please call (503) 986-3568 at least 48 hours in advance (TTY: 711).

In Oregon, decisions regarding speed zones are made jointly by ODOT 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 panel receives testimony from the local road authority and interested parties and makes the final decision. The panel also serves as an advisory body to the department.

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

Author Profile Photo

Jack Hirsh

Jack Hirsh is a multimedia journalist for NewsChannel 21. Learn more about Jack here.

Comments

9 Comments

    1. Yes….this is about as small potatoes as it gets. I travel that section at least two times a week. I never even thought about what the speed limit was, because it is about 1 1/2 miles with very few houses, double yellow all the way IIRC, I’m sure I assumed the speed limit was 55, but have never noticed cars going super fast. The only consideration is that there is a small school in the middle of that section, but there is no school zone, and the kids are far away from the street and never walk to school anyway. Now, if the County was really interested in speeding, they could travel about 2 miles to the Northeast on Powell Butte Highway where the de facto speed limit is about 70 mph. I once tried to go 55, and had cars stacked up behind me, and passing dangerously. They should get their priorities straight.

    2. It makes a fairly large difference because once the limit is lowered ODOT will actually put up signs indicating the speed versus now, people assume that the speeds off Powell Butte highway are acceptable because it’s “farmland”

  1. The only speed signs Peter should be changing is the parkway speed signs. If peter did a study about speeders on the parkway he would know about 95% of the drivers don’t obey the speed limit signs and already drive between 55 and 70 mph. So why change a rural road when a state highway stays the same

  2. That stretch is a speedway…all of Powell Butte Hwy. It would be easy picking if they ever patrolled. Also coming off roundabout at neff/alfalfa market. If ur doing to the limit they tailgate you until they can pass, yellow line or not

  3. The intersection of Hamehook and Buttler Market needs some rethinking. Why only make traffic from two directions stop but not the northbound traffic?

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