Legislature looks to speed up traffic on highways


SALEM — Slow-poke drivers in passing lanes on Oregon freeways would sometimes have to make way for motorists with heavier right feet under a bill approved Monday in the state Senate.

The measure would designate the left lane on highways as a passing lane when there isn't congestion, requiring slow drivers to move over for faster-moving traffic.

Lawmakers, who have plenty of experience commuting to Salem, made clear that they were knowledgeable about the subject.

“We have all experienced in our commuting life the terrible frustration of having someone get in the passing lane and basically park there,” said Sen. Ginny Burdick, a Portland Democrat who sponsored the bill. “This morning, this very morning, when I was commuting there was somebody in the left lane going just a little under the speed-limit reading.”

When confronted with a left-lane hog, frustrated drivers often tailgate, pass on the right or zigzag through traffic to get around, creating dangerous conditions, she said.

Sen. Alan Olsen, R-Canby, said he worried the bill would increase congestion in other lanes by discouraging people from using the one on the left. The bill encourages people to speed, he said, and would increase accidents.

“To inflict this injury because you can't get to work on time because you get frustrated with someone in front of you is ludicrous,” Olsen said.

The bill would allow police to ticket drivers in the left lane who refuse to move over for faster-moving traffic. It applies to highways with a speed limit of at least 55 mph and at least two lanes in each direction.

The measure passed in a 23-6 vote. It returns to the House, which approved it earlier this year but must agree to changes made in the Senate.

Another speed-related bill is also still alive as lawmakers near the end of the legislative session, which could come as soon as this week.

The bill would raise the speed limit on rural stretches of freeway in eastern Oregon. The state's top speed limit would become 70 mph, up from 65, on Interstate 84 between The Dalles and Idaho. It would also be 70 mph on Highway 95, which connects Nevada and Idaho through far southeastern Oregon.

That bill, which includes $735,000 for new speed limit signs, is awaiting action in the Ways and Means Committee.


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