Oregon Department of Transportation, Highway Division

Rule Rule 734-020-0017
Establishment of Speed Zones on Public Unpaved Roads


(1)

Purpose. This rule is adopted for the purpose of establishing speed zones on unpaved roads by the Department when appropriate.

(2)

Guidance. ODOT provides the following guidance to assist the road authority in determining if creation of a speed zone is appropriate:

(a)

Establishing speed zones on unpaved roads is generally discouraged:

(A)

The risk with establishing a specific speed zone is that a “Speed Zone” sign creates an expectation by the driver that the roadway is safe to drive at the posted speed. Since unpaved roadway conditions can change rapidly depending on weather, season, traffic volumes and amount of road maintenance, establishing the appropriate speed zone for all conditions is difficult, if not impossible; and

(B)

Oregon’s basic rule speed law requires drivers to adopt a reasonable and prudent speed. The driver should rely primarily on their visual observation of the roadway conditions, rather than a speed zone sign to determine the safe speed to drive a road.

(b)

There are other factors that reduce the effectiveness of, or necessity for setting speeds on unpaved roads:

(A)

Enforcement is minimal on unpaved roads. There would be poor compliance with speed zoning without enforcement commitment; and

(B)

Risks of vehicle conflict are very low on these roads; most are used by travelers who are familiar with the roads and their condition.

(c)

Given the factors in subsections (2)(a) and (2)(b), speed zones will only be established for unpaved roads that are gravel roads as defined in OAR 734-020-0014 (Speed Zone Definitions). Speed zones will not be established under ORS 810.180 (Designation of maximum speeds) for other unpaved roads except for speed zones established by a road authority under ORS 810.180 (Designation of maximum speeds)(7), (8) or (9).

(3)

Speed Zone Application Process. The road authority must do all of the following:

(a)

Make written application to the State Traffic Engineer requesting authority to perform or cause to be performed an engineering study for a specific unpaved road under their jurisdiction;

(b)

State the reason for the requested change in speed;

(c)

Specify that the engineering study will be performed; and

(d)

Submit the following documentation:

(A)

Evidence of crash history;

(B)

Written commitment from law enforcement that the subject roadway will be part of routine patrols;

(C)

Written commitment from the road authority and interested jurisdiction, if any, that the roadway will be graded a minimum of every six months when open to normal traffic; and

(D)

If there is an interested jurisdiction on the specified unpaved road within the boundaries of the road authority, the written application must include a statement that the road authority and interested jurisdiction have agreed to the need to perform an engineering study and if appropriate, establish a designated speed according to this rule.

(4)

Delegation of Authority.

(a)

The Department will delegate authority to perform the engineering study if the road authority satisfactorily completes the application process as outlined in section (3) of this rule; and

(b)

The road authority will proceed with the engineering study upon review and approval of the application by the Department.

(5)

Speed Zone Criteria. A road authority granted authority under section (4) of this rule is subject to the following:

(a)

Perform or cause to be performed an engineering study to determine the recommended speed for the proposed speed zone using the following criteria:

(A)

The eighty-fifth percentile speed; and

(B)

Documented history of crashes related to excessive speed in the section of unpaved road for which a speed zone is requested.

(b)

The following additional factors may be considered in the recommended speed:

(A)

Accesses;

(B)

Crash history;

(C)

Enforcement;

(D)

Geometric features;

(E)

Pedestrian and bicycle movements;

(F)

Public testimony;

(G)

Traffic volumes;

(H)

Type and density of adjacent land use; and

(I)

Other applicable factors

(6)

Speed Zone Recommendation. The road authority is subject to the following guidelines when determining the recommended speed:

(a)

The recommended speed may be varied a maximum of 10 miles per hour above or below the eighty-fifth percentile speed; and

(b)

The section considered for speed zoning should be at least one-quarter of a mile in length except transition speed zones may be a minimum of one thousand feet in length.

(7)

Speed Zone Procedures. The following procedures apply to consideration and approval or denial of a speed zone recommendation:

(a)

The road authority must submit two copies of the completed engineering study to the Department.

(b)

The road authority should refer to the Department for acceptable methodologies and procedures for an engineering study of speed zones.

(c)

The Department:

(A)

May change the existing designated or statutory speed on a specific section of highway if the engineering study establishes to the satisfaction of the Department that the existing speed is greater or less than reasonable or safe for the specific section in question;

(B)

Must give written notice to the road authority and interested jurisdiction, if any, of the Department’s determination regarding the designated speed; and

(C)

May issue a speed zone order if the recommended speed is mutually agreeable to the road authority and any interested jurisdiction.

(d)

The Department will refer the matter to the Speed Zone Review Panel when:

(A)

There are differences of opinion among the Department and the road authority or interested jurisdiction;

(B)

There are differences of opinion between the road authority and interested jurisdiction; or

(C)

The recommended speed exceeds 10 mph above or below the eighty-fifth percentile speed.

(e)

A copy of the written speed zone order must be filed with the road authority and any interested jurisdiction, as appropriate, and the original retained in the Department’s records for each speed zone established.

(f)

The road authority is responsible for installing speed zone signing.

(g)

The speed zone becomes enforceable when appropriate signs giving notice of the designated speed are posted on the portion of the highway where the designated speed is imposed.

(8)

Rescission.

(a)

A designated speed established in a speed zone order created under ORS 810.180 (Designation of maximum speeds) supersedes the statutory speed that would otherwise apply, until or unless the speed zone order is rescinded.

(b)

A road authority may request that the Department rescind an established speed zone order if the road authority has determined that the statutory speed is more appropriate for the roadway and the roadway meets the statutory definition of the proposed statutory speed.

(c)

When a speed zone order has been formally rescinded, the road authority may post the statutory speed.
Source

Last accessed
Jun. 8, 2021