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Answers to Common Questions about ODOT

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Every year, citizens ask us thousands of questions about ODOT  operations, road conditions, safe driving practices and motor vehicle laws. Most of those questions are very specific – about a certain incident or specific law, but some of the questions are more general in nature and are asked frequently. We suggest you look through these questions. If you can’t find the information you are looking for, please call 1-888-275-6368 or e-mail us.
 

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Latest questions

Are construction zones in effect even though there doesn’t seem to be any actual construction activity going on?

The answer to that is a definite yes! Even though there may not be workers and equipment at the site, there may be pavement or lane changes that require you to slow down for safety reasons. And some projects remain active year ‘round. So if you see construction signs and cones…slow down and obey the speed limit. And remember, traffic fines double in construction zones!

Who owns and maintains the state’s safety rest areas?
That depends on which safety rest area you’re talking about. There are 57 SRAs along state highways and freeways in the state. In the beginning, when a safety rest area was nothing more than a wide spot in the road and perhaps a drinking fountain, most rest areas belonged to ODOT. However, in the last few years, the Oregon Travel Experience has taken on the management of about 16 rest areas. In addition, seven SRAs are located within state parks and are owned and managed by the State Parks and Recreation Department. The best way to determine who owns and operates a Safety Rest Area is to go to Tripcheck.com and open the Travel Services drop-down menu.
 
There’s a school in my neighborhood where the blinking yellow lights seem to be on even when there aren’t any children near the crosswalks. Do I still have to slow down?
There are three types of signage in school zones. One reads: “School: Speed Limit 20 MPH when children are present,” the second reads: “School: Speed Limit 20 MPH from (with a specified time frame)” and the third reads: School: Speed Limit 20 mph when lights are flashing.” In this third type of school zone, if the lights are flashing, the 20 mile-per-hour limit is in effect, no matter if children are actually near the crosswalk or not. And remember, traffic fines double in school and construction zones.
 
Can I get weather information on Tripcheck?
That’s a definite “yes.” Here’s how you do it: Go to the Tripcheck.com website. Click on one of the sections of the state. Scroll to the bottom of the page and you’ll see a tab titled “Weather Outlook.” Click on that tab and you will see a map with a series of red weather vanes on it. You can either click on a weather vane or scroll down the page to see the latest area forecasts from the National Oceanographic and Atmospheric Administration – NOAA. You will also see any weather advisories or warnings for the area. Forecasts are updated when new information is received from the weather bureau. And always keep in mind that these are FORE-casts. The weather is subject to change quickly — especially in the mountain passes – so check before you go!
 
 
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Adopt-a-Highway and Litter Patrol questions

 
Who do I contact for more information about the Adopt-a-Highway program?
Visit our Adopt-a-Highway program web page for information about participating in the program including a list of local contacts.
 
How can I sign up my teenager for the summer Youth Litter Patrol program?
ODOT usually starts recruiting for the summer Youth Litter Patrol in March. Crew leaders must be at least 18 years old, pass a criminal background check, and have a valid Oregon Driver License with an acceptable driving record. Crew members must be at least 16 years old. All litter patrol workers must have a basic knowledge of spoken and written English, the ability to pick up and bag litter along highways, lift and carry filled bags, work in all types of conditions and work in a safe manner along highways with varying levels of traffic. For more information go to www.odotjobs.com and enter the keyword “Litter.”

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Chain and traction tire questions

Where on your website can I find information about traction devices?
Visit www.Tripcheck.com and lower left side of the page click on "Chains" or "Traction Tires."
 
When can I use studded tires on my car?
Oregon law allows the use of studded tires from Nov. 1 to March 31. You should note that these dates may be adjusted by the ODOT (lengthened or shortened) in order to protect the highway and safety of travelers. This decision may be made based on road and weather conditions. For more information about driving in snow zones and winter driving in general, clink on the “Winter Driving” link at www.Tripcheck.com
 
I have a four-wheel-drive vehicle. Do I have to use chains if they are required on two-wheel-drive vehicles?
If signs are posted requiring the use of chains, you may proceed in a four-wheel or all-wheel-drive vehicle if the vehicle:
  • has an unloaded weight of 6,500 pounds or less;
  • is operated to provide power to both the front and rear wheels;
  • is carrying tire chains;
  • has mud and snow, all-weather radial, or traction tires on all of its wheels;
  • is not towing another vehicle;
  • is not being operated in a manner or under conditions that cause the vehicle to lose traction.
 
NOTE: During severe winter weather, authorities may place a “conditional closure" on a highway. All vehicles traveling on the highway during a “conditional closure” – including four- and all-wheel-drive vehicles – may be required to use tire chains.
 
For more information about driving in snow zones and winter driving in general, click on the “Winter Driving” link at www.Tripcheck.com
 
The owner’s manuals of some vehicles say that tire chains cannot be used on the vehicle. Others say that chains are not recommended. What happens in these cases when chains are required?
First, remember that “chains” can be link chains, cable chains, or other devices that attach to the wheel, vehicle or outside of the tire that is specifically designed to increase traction in snow and ice. Then, carefully re-read the owner’s manual. While some manuals say chains cannot be used, others may recommend use of chains specifically designed for limited clearance vehicles. Also, check with your car dealer or your local tire store. They may be able to suggest alternatives to traditional tire chains that are suitable for your vehicle. But the bottom line is: If chains are required and you don’t have them on your vehicle, you cannot drive in the snow zone.
 
For more information about driving in snow zones and winter driving in general, click on the “Winter Driving” link at www.Tripcheck.com

 
Does ODOT station workers on the mountain passes to put chains on cars?
Sorry, ODOT workers do not staff chain-up sites in mountain areas to put chains on private vehicles. At some mountain passes, private individuals may be available to put chains on vehicles for a fee. These chain-up services are not available on all mountain passes and, in those areas were they are available, they may not be available at all times of the day. These individuals usually service commercial trucks first and private vehicles afterward. Your best approach is to be prepared and always be familiar enough with your tire chains to put them on and take them off yourself. We have a video that demonstrates how to put on cable tire chains.
 
I noticed that on the Tripcheck website, some snow zones are at the “Carry Chains or Traction Tires” status, but there is a Severe Weather Warning posted. What’s the difference? 
The road conditions posted on the Tripcheck maps are real-time current conditions. So even though a storm may be predicted, road conditions may not require the use of chains or traction tires at the moment (remember: if “Carry Tire Chains or Traction Tires” signs are posted, the law requires you to have these devices in your vehicle). A Severe Weather Warning means that the National Weather Service has issued a warning about an incoming storm. If the storm arrives and begins affecting road conditions, the Tripcheck road condition report will be changed to reflect any new requirements. It’s always a good idea to check the conditions at www.Tripcheck.com before you leave on a trip. Once you’re on your way, you can call 511 for the latest road conditions.
 
Every time my husband hears on the news that there is a requirement to carry chains or traction tires, he says it means we only have to carry tractions tires. I tell him it means we have to have studded tires already on the car, not just carry the tires. So who is right my husband or me?
We hope you didn’t bet the farm on this question! If signs are posted stating “Carry Chains or Traction Tires,” it means that you only have to have these devices in the car. Whether he’d want to face the hassle of trying to put on a set of snow or studded tires during a howling snowstorm if road conditions change is a different question entirely!
 

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Contracting with ODOT questions

How do I sign up to be on your bid list for projects?
Please visit ODOT's online Contracting Portal.
 
 

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Driver license questions

I was wondering what type of public transportation would require a Commercial Driver License (CDL)? Also, what are the requirements for obtaining a CDL?
Drivers transporting passengers on highways or premises open to the public in Oregon must have a CDL is they are transporting more than 16 passengers. A CDL also is required if the gross vehicle weight or gross vehicle weight rating is greater than 26,000 pounds or the vehicle is used to transport hazardous materials.
 
More information about commercial driver license and the process for getting an Oregon CDL are available on the DMV website.  

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Highway finance questions

How does Oregon get the money to pay for building and taking care of highways?
The main source of money for building and maintaining highways in Oregon is the state Highway Fund. The Oregon Constitution limits the use of money in the Highway Fund to “the construction, reconstruction, improvement, repair, maintenance, operation and use of public highways, roads, streets, and roadside rest areas in this state…” Money flows into the fund from a number of sources, including gasoline tax, weight-mile taxes on commercial trucks, vehicle titling and registration fees and driver licensing fees. Oregon also receives money for highways from the federal government. Learn more about transportation funding. 

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Laws and rules questions

How are speed limits set?
Oregon law gives the state Department of Transportation the authority to establish speed limits on interstate, federal and state highways, county roads and city streets. Local road authorities such as county or city governments can request ODOT to change the speed limits on state highways, county roads or city streets. Before acting on the request, ODOT must conduct a speed zone study to determine if traffic conditions warrant a change in the speed limit. Learn more about speed zones and limits.

 

Are construction zones in effect even though there doesn’t seem to be any actual construction activity going on?
The answer to that is a definite yes! Even though there may not be workers and equipment at the site, there may be pavement or lane changes that require you to slow down for safety reasons. And some projects remain active year ‘round. So if you see construction signs and cones…slow down and obey the speed limit. And remember, traffic fines double in construction zones!
 
There’s a school in my neighborhood where the blinking yellow lights seem to be on even when there aren’t any children near the crosswalks. Do I still have to slow down?
There are three types of signage in school zones. One reads: “School: Speed Limit 20 MPH when children are present,” the second reads: “School: Speed Limit 20 MPH from (with a specified time frame)” and the third reads: School: Speed Limit 20 mph when lights are flashing.” In this third type of school zone, if the lights are flashing, the 20 mile-per-hour limit is in effect, no matter if children are actually near the crosswalk or not. And remember, traffic fines double in school and construction zones.
 
 
What are the rules about political signs next to the highway?
 
No signs (except official traffic control devices) are allowed in state highway right of way; signs found there can be subject to immediate pick-up. Signs on private property and visible to state highway are subject to regulation. Some signs need permits; others do not at all, or, although they usually would need a permit, can qualify for a permit exemption. 
 
To decide whether a sign needs a permit, we ask two questions. First, is the sign posted for compensation (e.g. receiving ad revenue, or paying a land lease)? If so, it is an "outdoor advertising sign" and needs a permit. If not, we ask a second question: is the sign posted at the location of a business or activity open to the public? If not it is an "outdoor advertising sign" and needs a permit.
 
If a sign is not at a business or location open to the public, it could qualify for the permit exemption for temporary signs. Frequently political signs qualify for this exemption.
 
 
All signs under state jurisdiction must meet some basic requirements - mostly safety issues - listed in statute. Most cities and counties have their own sign regulations as well. A sign must meet both the local laws and the state's laws.
 
For additional outdoor political sign information visit the ODOT sign program website, http://www.oregon.gov/odot/hwy/signprogram/pages/index.aspx.
 
I’ve heard about the “Move It” law, but I don’t know what it means.
Oregon’s “Move It” law (ORS 811.717) requires you to move your vehicle from the highway in a non-injury crash if your vehicle is operable and it is safe to move it. Then you can exchange information with others involved and witnesses.
 
How do I comply with the “Move It” law?
It’s as easy at 1 – 2 – 3.
  1. Check for injuries. If there are injuries, you are not required to move your vehicle. Call 911.
  2. Move it. If there are no injuries and the vehicle is operable, move the vehicle off the highway to a shoulder or parking area.
  3. Report the crash. Notify the appropriate authorities if required. Exchange information with the others involved. Fill out an “Oregon Traffic Accident and Insurance Report” and file it with DMV. Visit the DMV website for a list of your responsibilities in the event of a crash.

 

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Map questions

 
Where can I get a state map?
Call (503) 986-3154 to order an official Oregon state map. For information about other maps available from ODOT, visit our Maps web page.

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Miscellaneous questions

Can I cut firewood from the piles of trees I see along state highways?
ODOT generally does not allow the cutting of firewood within the right of way of state highways. Safety is a major concern – vehicles parked along a highway by people cutting firewood would present a hazard to other vehicles using the highway. Also, the trees may not belong to ODOT. They may belong to an adjoining property owner, or, depending on how the contract was written, belong to the contractor hired to clear the downed tree. If the trees do belong to ODOT, they could have value to the state. ODOT may be able to sell them to recover some or all of the cost of the clean-up or the trees could be used in the restoration of rivers and streams. 
  
I was wondering how many accidents involving bicycles vs. vehicles happen in Oregon each year.
According to the ODOT Publication 2011 Oregon Motor Vehicle Traffic Crashes Quick Facts there were 962 traffic crashes involving motor vehicles and bicycles or pedacycles during 2011. Of the 976 riders involved, 15 were killed and 928 were injured.  

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Paint and striping questions

How does ODOT choose which highways, and how often, to repaint traffic stripes?
Lane striping paint is, in the scheme of things, a short-lived product. No matter what quality of paint we buy, it has a short lifetime. Even the newer thermoplastic products can only be expected to last 3-4 years. That’s understandable, since lane stripes have to withstand rain, snow, sun, sanding material, de-icing chemicals and wear from car and truck tires plus studs, chains and snowplows.
 
ODOT is responsible for about 19,000 lane miles of highways statewide and ODOT restripes about 13,000 lane miles each year. Those miles include solid center lines, dashed “skip” lines and white fog lines. That means that some highways have their lines refreshed frequently. In fact, the goal of ODOT’s line striping program is to repaint painted line every year.
 
How do I avoid getting paint on my car when I’m following an ODOT  paint striping crew?
It is easy to avoid getting paint on your vehicle is you encounter an ODOT striping crew. Striping crews usually consists of an advance truck, the paint truck and at least two – and sometimes as many as three “shadow vehicles” following the paint truck. ODOT uses a water-based striping paint that takes about 90 seconds to set up to the point where it can be driven on. The shadow vehicles follow far enough behind the paint wagon that the paint should have set up by the time they pass, so if drivers stay behind the shadow vehicle they should be safe from any paint splash.
 
Striping trains travel slowly – 15 to 20 miles an hour. This often causes traffic to back up. Impatient drivers sometimes attempt to pass the shadow vehicles and can wind up in the wet paint zone and may end up with paint splash on their vehicles. If you stay behind the shadow vehicles, you should be safe from any paint splash.
 
If you do get paint on your vehicle follow the instructions below to remove it.
 
I got striping paint on my truck. How can I get it off?
There are several procedures that can be used to removing striping paint from vehicles. Your best bet is to consult your local body shop. However, one of ODOT’s major suppliers of striping paint sent us the following procedure for removing paint from vehicles:
 
“Do not scrub the finish with a solvent or scouring cleanser. This will damage the finish.
 
“As soon as possible after getting paint from road stripes on a vehicle, wash the vehicle at a pressure car wash. This will loosen most of the paint unless it has dried for more than a day.
 
“If the car wash does not remove the paint, allow the water to dry off the vehicle. Spray the paint residue with WD-40® and allow the WD-40® to stay on the area for 1 to 2 hours and rewash the vehicle. The WD-40® will soften the traffic paint without hurting the vehicle finish. If there is a heavy concentration, repeat the procedure.
 
“For heavy accumulations or paint that has dried for several days, apply a liberal coating of petroleum jelly to the dried traffic paint and allow it to stay on overnight. Take the vehicle to a pressure car wash and wash it. This should remove most of the traffic paint. If not, repeat the procedure.
 
“After cleaning the paint away, apply a good wax to the vehicle’s finish. Wax should remove any lasting signs of the traffic paint.
 
“Wheel wells are very difficult to remove paint from since they are normally lined with a flat finish paint. Apply a liberal coat of petroleum jelly to the area and leave for several days then pressure wash. Applying rubbing alcohol to the wheel well will help to soften any residue left after the petroleum jelly. Again, do not scrub. Just apply with a saturated rag or sponge." 
 
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Rail questions

How can I report a train that’s been blocking a crossing for a long time?
Until recently, the state of Oregon regulated the length of time a railroad may block a public highway-rail crossing. An Oregon Court of Appeals ruling determined that federal law preempted the state from continuing this practice. So, the ODOT can no longer control public crossings that are blocked by trains.

If you have any questions about highway-rail crossings, please contact the ODOT Rail Division  by e-mail or call (503) 986-4321.


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Road conditions/ travel information questions

 
How do I find information about road conditions from inside Oregon?
Visit www.Tripcheck.com or call (800) 977-6368. If you're outside Oregon call (503) 588-2941.
 
Do you keep copies of the images captured on your traffic cameras?
No 
 
Who is responsible for maintaining the various streets and roads in Oregon?
Streets, roads and highways are maintained by state, county, and local agencies. Learn more here.
 
How do I report a road hazard?
Call one of ODOT's regional dispatch centers to report a road hazard.
 
Portland metro – 503-283-5859
NW Oregon – 503-362-0457
Southern Oregon – 541-858-3103
Central Oregon – 541-383-0121
Eastern Oregon – 541-383-0121
 
How do I report a drunk or dangerous driver?
Report possible drinking or drugged drivers by calling 1-800-243-7865.
 
How do I report unsafe/unlawful operation of a state vehicle?
Email or call the Oregon Department of Administrative Services (503) 373-7475.
 
How do I report unsafe operation of a commercial truck?
Call the Truck Safety Hotline 1-800-248-6782.
 
Why does ODOT just patch potholes instead of fixing them permanently the first time?
The decision to fix a pothole temporarily or permanently generally depends on the time of year. The preferred method of fixing a pothole is to fill it with "hot mix" – heated asphalt – then compact the mixture with a powered roller and seal the edges with hot oil. This should keep the pothole patched until the highway is repaved at some point in the future. The problem is, in order for the hot mix to stick to the surrounding pavement, the pavement and the subsurface beneath the pavement has to be completely dry. If there’s moisture in the pothole, the material will break down and the patch will fail. So, during the rainy/snow season, crews will use "cold mix" to patch potholes. This material is a rock/oil mixture that is placed in the pothole cold and simply tamped down. It is a very temporary fix. In fact, on busier highways, cold mix patches may have to be redone several times a winter. The object of cold mix patches is to keep "something" in the hole until drier weather arrives and the pothole can be repaired permanently.

Who owns and maintains the state’s safety rest areas?
That depends on which safety rest area you’re talking about. There are 57 SRAs along state highways and freeways in the state. In the beginning, when a safety rest area was nothing more than a wide spot in the road and perhaps a drinking fountain, most rest areas belonged to ODOT. However, in the last few years, the Oregon Travel Experience has taken on the management of about 16 rest areas. In addition, seven SRAs are located within state parks and are owned and managed by the State Parks and Recreation Department. The best way to determine who owns and operates a Safety Rest Area is to go to Tripcheck.com and open the Travel Services drop-down menu.
 
 
Can I get weather information on Tripcheck?
That’s a definite “yes.” Here’s how you do it: Go to the Tripcheck.com website. Click on one of the sections of the state. Scroll to the bottom of the page and you’ll see a tab titled “Weather Outlook.” Click on that tab and you will see a map with a series of red weather vanes on it. You can either click on a weather vane or scroll down the page to see the latest area forecasts from the National Oceanographic and Atmospheric Administration – NOAA. You will also see any weather advisories or warnings for the area. Forecasts are updated when new information is received from the weather bureau. And always keep in mind that these are FORE-casts. The weather is subject to change quickly — especially in the mountain passes – so check before you go!


 

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Signal, device and safety feature questions

Is the yellow signal clearance time adjusted correctly?
This question is often related to red light traffic cameras and tickets. As you passed through an intersection at which a red light running camera is installed, did the amount of time allotted for the yellow change interval seem too short? The fact is the yellow light change interval, also known as yellow clearance time, is not meant to clear vehicles through the intersection. Based on Oregon law and parameters such as how long a vehicle takes to come to a stop, the yellow light is timed to give drivers warning that the signal is about to turn red so they can come to a stop. Also, drivers who are shown a green light are required to yield to anyone already in the intersection. It's not perfect, but what system dependant on human behavior can be?

If you are thinking about contesting the ticket in court, we recommend you contact the local police department first. ODOT has already confirmed that signals in intersections with red light traffic cameras meet all timing and intersection standards. ODOT provided the information to police departments that operate red light cameras.

 

ODOT does not own, operate or receive revenues from red light camera systems. For details on how they operate, we encourage you to contact the local police department.

 

What are the requirements to install a speed bump on a city street? Is there anything that requires a certain length or grade to a speed bump?
According to ODOT’s Traffic Section, there are no federal or state standards for speed humps. Setting the specifications for these devices is left up to county and city road authorities. There are federal specifications for signing for areas where speed humps have been installed. These specifications are in the federal Manual on Uniform Traffic Control Devices (MUTCD). Here’s a link to the MUTCD website
 
How can I get a crosswalk put on a state highway?
The protocol for establishing a crosswalk on a state highway depends on the type of highway, the location of the proposed crosswalk and the traffic volume. The best place to start would be at your local ODOT District Maintenance Manager’s office. ODOT divides Oregon into five regions and further into 15 maintenance districts, each with a district office. The telephone numbers should be in your local phone book or you can call the Ask ODOT office at 1-888-275-6368 for the number.

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Trucking questions

 
Who do I call with questions about purchasing an over-dimensional permit?
You can call the Motor Carrier Transportation Division at (503) 373-0000.
 
How can I report an unsafe tractor-trailer that’s being used by a trucking company?
One thing you can do is call the Truck Safety Hotline at 1-800-248-6782. This is a 24/7 number which will automatically take the information and forward it to the Motor Carrier Safety Section. Or, you can call the Motor Carrier Safety Section during normal business hours at 503-378-6963. The receptionist can transfer you to a safety inspector who will take the information. You can also use this link to send in a written report.

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Vehicle equipment questions

Can a tire extend past the wheel well or wheel flare of a car?
Sorry, but Oregon Revised Statute 815.180 prohibits tires from extending past any fender or mudguard. The only exception is if the vehicle is classified as a “street rod” as defined in ORS 815.107.
 
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Winter road maintenance questions

What de-icing chemicals does ODOT use?  
 
ODOT primarily uses magnesium chloride, which inhibits rust on vehicles and was selected for its ability to meet the needs of Oregon’s various temperatures, weather and environmental conditions. Most vehicle manufacturers  recommend that you wash vehicles regularly during the winter months. Winter maintenance deicers won’t crack windshields or chip paint like sand, but may leave a film on vehicles. Even though the magnesium chloride product contains a corrosion inhibitor, it still can cause corrosion. Regularly wash vehicles to remove deicer liquid, sanding and road dirt encountered during winter months.
 
For more information on winter driving, visit the winter driving page on the ODOT website.

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