The Oregon Department of Transportation has approved a plan to lower the speed limit on Interstate 5 between Roseburg mileposts 123 to 127. The agency offered valid reasons for the change, including recent data from the state’s Speed Zone Review Panel that found an unusually high serious and fatal crash rate in the area. The available data supports ODOT’s plan to lower the speed limit, and we agree that it is the right move to decrease the crash rate and increase the safety of area residents.
However, we are bothered by ODOT’s lack of initiative in including area residents in the decision making process. While ODOT did offer an email address for comments regarding the speed limit changes and a link to live stream the Speed Zone Review Panel’s meetings, these methods offer no real chance for open dialog between decision makers and affected citizens.
As the authority on the subject of transportation, we believe it is ODOT’s responsibility to ensure every effort is made to inform and include affected residents about upcoming changes. While ODOT engineers and policy makers are no doubt well-informed on the subject of highway safety, their failure to at least schedule a local public meeting to listen to the concerns and ideas of residents points to a closed-mindedness that is unwelcome in a regulatory agency.
ODOT may have all the data and experts it needs to make a proper decision regarding speed limits and highway safety, but it is the height of arrogance if they think there is no possibility of useful ideas or relevant concerns coming to light in a public discussion, even if none of the attendees are transportation experts. It is all too easy for scientists and engineers to reduce people to numbers instead of seeing the commuters, parents shuttling kids to and from schools, delivery drivers and other real people who will be affected by their recommendations.
Opening a dialog with all the stakeholders involved in a decision would offer ODOT the opportunity to explain to concerned residents, in plain language, the data and decision making processes that are used to determine the speed limits in our area. It also gives residents the opportunity to voice their concerns and know that the people behind the decisions are listening. Who knows; the experts might just learn something useful about drivers that they can’t get from a radar gun.
We agree with ODOT’s decision to lower speed limits in the Roseburg area, but an informal survey by The News-Review showed that a large majority of readers do not. Perhaps if ODOT took the time to schedule a local public meeting before a decision is made, they would find it worthwhile in getting everyone (or at least a majority) on the same page as far as traffic safety.