There is method to speed-limit madness

I noticed the other day that there are two speed limits for the same stretch of East Main Street and was wondering why there's a difference. On East Main in Medford between Almond Street and Crater Lake Avenue, eastbound traffic has a 30 mph sign, and westbound has a 25 mph sign. Is this just a mishap? Or is there a method to the madness?

— Theron H., Phoenix

The incongruity of the two speed limits on the same street is not a mishap nor madness, Theron. The city of Medford engineering department declares it "method."

The lower westbound speed limit of 25 mph serves as an alert to motorists that they're entering a more urban area, downtown Medford, said Larry Beskow, a city engineer. There's a higher concentration of vehicles, bicycles and pedestrians in downtown, and speed limits range between 20 and 25 mph. Headed east on East Main is suburbia, where traffic engineers deem it more acceptable for motorists to drive the faster speed of 30 mph. So you could look at that segment of East Main as a sort of staging area in the divide between urban and suburban.

By coincidence, the city actually has a work order to reposition those two signs. Currently, the two signs are nearly two blocks apart, with the 30 mph sign by the Dutch Brothers coffee stand at the intersection of Tripp Street and the 25 mph sign nearly two blocks to the east. The work order calls for the 30 mph sign to be moved farther away from downtown and closer to the 25 mph sign, less than a block away. That, you might argue, could emphasize the incongruity of the two signs. However, Beskow said, moving the signs closer is expected to reduce confusion about the speed limit in those two blocks.

Send questions to "Since You Asked," Mail Tribune Newsroom, P.O. Box 1108, Medford, OR 97501; by fax to 541-776-4376; or by e-mail to We're sorry, but the volume of questions received prevents us from answering all of them.

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