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Answers to Common Questions

Every year, we are asked 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 email us.

​Who owns the road?

The Oregon Department of Transportation is responsible for state and interstate highways within Oregon. The U.S. Forest Service builds and maintains roads through federal forestlands and the Bureau of Land Management maintains highways on its federally-owned property. All other roads and streets are the responsibility of either local county or city governments.
 
How can you tell the difference?
If you are traveling a highway marked with a shield like those below, the Oregon Department of Transportation usually has jurisdiction over the highway:
Examples of highway shields

Sometimes, however, portions of state and federal highways that run through cities are maintained by city street departments. Streets within the boundaries of an incorporated city are generally the responsibility of a city public works department.
 
For maps, highway inventory information and other data about specific roads visist our Road Assets and Mileage page.

Where on your website can I find information about traction devices?

Visit www.Tripcheck.com. Hover over the "Road & Weather" tab at the top of the screen. Then move down to "Winter Travel" to pull up a menu of related items. You may want to see "Chain Law," "Traction Tires" and "Chain requirements."

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 ODOT in order to protect the highway and the 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, visit www.Tripcheck.com. Hover over the "Road & Weather" tab at the top of the screen. Then move down to "Winter Travel" to pull up a menu of related items.

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, Visit www.Tripcheck.com. Hover over the "Road & Weather" tab at the top of the screen. Then move down to "Winter Travel" to pull up a menu of related items. You may want to look at "Chain Law" and "Chain Requirements."

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, Visit www.Tripcheck.com. Hover over the "Road & Weather" tab at the top of the screen. Then move down to "Winter Travel" to pull up a menu of related items.

Does ODOT have workers on the mountain passes to put chains on cars?

No, ODOT does not have workers in mountain passes to put chains on cars. However, there may be people at some mountain passes who will do it for a fee. This service may not be available at all mountain passes or at all times of the day. Typically they give priority to commercial trucks before they serve private vehicles. It is best to be prepared by making sure you know how to put on and take off your tire chains before you leave. 

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!

I was wondering what type of public transportation would require a Commercial Driver License, or 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.

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?

You may report this to 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.

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. Read more about the ODOT budget and revenue sources.

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. Some projects remain active year-round. So if you see construction signs and cones, slow down and obey the speed limit. 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. They read as follows:

  • School: Speed Limit 20 MPH when children are present.
  • School: Speed Limit 20 MPH from (with a specified time frame).
  • School: Speed Limit 20 mph when lights are flashing.

In the last type of school zone, if the lights are flashing, the 20 mile-per-hour limit is in effect, whether children are actually near the crosswalk or not. 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. 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 sign rules. Frequently political signs qualify for a Size or Time Variance for Temporary Sign. For additional outdoor political sign information visit the ODOT Outdoor Advertising Sign Program.

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 “Oreg​on 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.

Can I cut firewood from the piles of trees I see along state highways?

Generally, No you can not. First, safety is a major concern because vehicles parked along a highway present a hazard to other drivers. ODOT crews need to remove the trees, and are required to dispose of the wood in accordance with rules and policies. When a tree that has been removed is suitable as firewood, it may be donated to a local non-profit organization. If the type of wood is not suitable for firewood, the wood may be chipped into mulch for erosion protection, or it may be used by ODFW or other government agencies for fish and wildlife habitat or environmental restoration. In the event ODOT hired a contractor due to the size of the job, or if the trees are removed for road construction projects, typically the contractor owns the wood that is removed.

Where can I find out about OReGO, Oregon's road usage charge program?

Visit the OReGO website to learn what is myth and what is fact about this new way to fund transportation. You can read the blog, follow the program on social media and even sign up for the opportunity to participate in this unique program.

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.

How do I avoid getting paint on my car when I’m following an ODOT paint striping crew?

Avoiding getting paint on your car in this situation is simple. Striping crews normally consist of an advance truck, the paint truck, and two or three “shadow vehicles” following the paint truck. The “shadow vehicles” follow far enough behind the paint truck that the paint should be set up by the time they pass. If you want to stay safe from paint splash, stay behind the shadow vehicles. Striping crews travel slowly at 15-20 miles an hour. As this causes traffic to back up, impatient drivers sometimes attempt to pass the striping crew and end up with paint on their vehicles. If you do get paint on your vehicle, follow the instructions below.

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."

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.

For issues regarding highway-rail crossing blockages, please contact the railroad. To identify the operating railroad in your area, refer to the State Rail System Map. Telephone numbers can be found on the list of railroads operating in Oregon.

If you have any questions about highway-rail crossings, please contact the ODOT Rail Section 503-986-4321.

How do I find information about road conditions from inside Oregon?

Visit www.Tripcheck.com or call 1-800-977-6368. If you're outside Oregon call 503-588-2941. You can also call 511 for travel information.

Can I get weather information on Tripcheck?

That’s a definite “yes.” Here’s how you do it: Go to the Tripcheck.com website. Hover over the "Road & Weather" tab and move down the menu to "Weather Outlook." You will be given the choice of looking at a particular region or the state as a whole. Once you make a selection, you will be taken to a map that is divided into sections. Click on a section to receive 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. Always keep in mind that these are forecasts! The weather is subject to change quickly—especially in the mountain passes—so check before you go!  

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. We have a map that displays the various jurisdictions.

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 dependent on human behavior can be? If you are thinking about contesting the ticket in court, we recommend you contact the local police department. 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​, or 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.

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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