ODOT to consider speed limit change in Hillsboro neighborhood after citizen complaint

HILLSBORO, Ore. -- A neighborhood is trying to hit the brakes on a plan to allow cars to zip by their homes at higher speeds.

Neighbors believe drivers are already going too fast, and they're furious because of it. Now, the Oregon Department of Transportation is getting involved.

"I get tailgated every day I go out. I have had cars go around me because I'm going the speed limit," a woman named Sylvia told the City of Hillsboro Traffic Committee at a meeting on Tuesday night.

She's talking about Southeast 32nd Avenue, which turns into Cypress Avenue and connects East Main Street to the Tualatin Valley Highway.

The street has a 25 mph speed limit. People who live on the street believe the city promised them that the speed limit would never change when the road opened in the late 1980s.

Devin Heard has lived on Southeast 32nd Avenue since 1966.

"Part of the agreement when they opened up this road, when they put this road through was it would be 25 miles per hour, residential only. Now they want to raise it up to 35 miles per hour," explained Heard.

Recently, the city received a complaint from Dean Pfaender to increase the speed limit by 10 mph. He's not a neighbor, but a school bus driver.

"I drive it pretty often and I know from gut-level that it was marked too slow," said Pfaender.

"Are you kidding?! It's a 25 mph zone, residential zone," Heard said.

The city researched Pfaender's request and discovered the road is already supposed to be at a higher speed -- 35 miles per hour -- because of an order from ODOT back in 1972.

Yearly studies have also found that 85 percent of most cars go that fast already. That "85 percent rule" is a common rule traffic engineers use to determine a road's speed limit.

"If the speed limit is set too low it's actually more dangerous than it is if it's set properly," said Pfaender.

Tuesday night, neighbor after neighbor, including heard, told the city they disagreed.

"We have bicyclists on the road, families with small children, what would be the risk if we increased it to 35?," asked Arlene Welsh, a long-time resident of Southeast 32nd Avenue.

"I fear that increasing the speed to 35 that there will be more tragedies," said Sylvia.

She's talking about a crash that killed a 93 year-old woman three years ago. The woman was crossing the street to get her mail when she was hit. Traffic data shows speed was not a factor in that crash.

Despite that, the accident is a constant reminder to Heard about the dangers he sees on his street.

"Slow down! Abide by the street signs, 25 miles per hour. Go 25 miles per hour!" said Heard.

Even though the City of Hillsboro couldn't change the speed limit if it wanted to, it is forced to make a recommendation to ODOT because of ODOT's 1972 order.

Tuesday night, the city's Transportation Committee voted to recommend that ODOT keep the 25 mile per hour speed limit intact. It is unclear how long it will take ODOT to make a final decision.