The national 55 MPH speed limit may have been repealed in 1995, but the Oregon Department of Transportation (ODOT) has refused to raise the limits on most freeways beyond 65. That makes Oregon the slowest state west of the Mississippi. Ted Carlin, 61, wants to call attention to this situation by making a 456-mile walk across the state — at a 3 MPH walking pace.
Carlin determined that ODOT policy made the roads more dangerous after he received a speeding ticket last year. He started setting his cruise control at 55 and noticed that far from making his trip safer, it disrupted the flow of traffic around him.
“I would soon have four to five cars stacked up behind me,” Carlin wrote on his blog chronicling his journey. “The cars would then attempt to pass in dangerous areas becoming much more of a hazard than a fast-moving automobile.”
Carlin kicked off his walk by starting with his feet in the Pacific Ocean in Newport on May 3. He plans to make his final stop in Ontario, the eastern edge of the state, by June 11. Carlin has been joined by supporters and friends, encouraging him along the way. Carlin’s wife drives a Chevy Impala, dubbed the “Sag Wagon,” carrying supplies and displaying a large “Say No to 55 MPH” message across the back.
“World wide I have seen drivers blink their lights at oncoming cars when they have seen a policeman up ahead monitoring speed limits,” Carlin wrote. “We elect officials to make laws to keep us safe and then we in turn circumvent the law to warn motorists we don’t even know to prevent these laws from being enforced.”
According to a 2004 ODOT survey, the 85th percentile speed on rural interstate highways is 71.1 MPH statewide. The bordering states of California and Washington post 70 MPH limits in comparable areas while Idaho posts 75 MPH. The majority of public comments submitted to ODOT urged increasing the limit to 70, but an ODOT panel unanimously decided to keep the lowered limits based on “the safety and environmental benefits.” Instead, the panel recommended increasing Oregon State Police speed patrols with orders to “reduce the current 10-15 MPH tolerance for speeding.” Prior to 1974, Oregon’s maximum speed limit was 75 MPH.