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Traffic Control Devices

Consistent use signs helps travelers travel safely. We follow laws and policies about when how we install signs, and traffic signals, and how speed limits are set.

We follow the Manual on Uniform Traffic Control Devices (MUTCD) for the design and use of traffic control devices. This is the same manual used by other local cities and counties. Using the MUTCD makes it easier for travelers to understand what is expected.

"Children at Play" signs

We do not install "Children at Play" signs on County roads. The sign is not recognized by the MUTCD or local policy. There is no evidence that the sign slows traffic down or makes drivers more aware of children. The sign can also give a false sense of security to children and caregivers.

Guide Signs

Guide signs direct travelers to some by the best route. These signs need to be simple and easy to see. The number of destinations should be kept to three or fewer. It is not feasible to install signs listing all the possible destinations.

Pedestrian Signals

These signals give visual and audio signals when there is time for you to cross a road. This helps ensure other traffic stops for pedestrians. Pedestrian signals may or may not have buttons to call the signal.

Pedestrian signals may have lights with the words WALK and DON'T WALK, or the lights with symbols of a walking person and an upraised hand.

A steady WALK or symbol of a walking person means that you may cross the road direction of the signal.

A flashing DON'T WALK or symbol of an upraised hand means that you should not start to cross the road, but a person who is already crossing should continue across.

A steady DON'T WALK or symbol of an upraised hand means that you should not cross the road in that direction.

Pedestrian Responsibilities

Pedestrian signals indicate you may cross the road, but they do not guarantee safety. You must use good judgment when crossing a road. The following suggestions are offered in the interest of safety:

  • Before crossing a signalized intersection, always push the pedestrian detector if one is present. This will guarantee adequate crossing time.
  • If no pedestrian signal is present, cross as soon as the vehicle signal turns green for the direction you plan to cross.

Roundabouts and Bicycles

Cyclists have a legal right to ride in on the road with motor vehicle traffic when traveling through a roundabout, just like other intersections. This is true even if a "Bikes on road" sign is not posted.

Traffic Signals

We use traffic studies to ensure that a traffic signal will improve safety for all travelers. These conditions, or warrants, can include the amount and type of traffic using the roads, school crossings, crash history, and more. We use standard traffic signal warrants developed by the Federal Highway Administration (FHWA).

The cost to design and install a traffic signal is depends on how complex the intersection is. Traffic signal projects are usually paid for as part of a road construction project or through private development.

Traffic signals can:

  • Create orderly movement of traffic
  • Increase capacity of the intersection
  • Reduce frequency and severity of some of crashes, especially right-angle collisions
  • Create protected crossing opportunities for bicyclists and pedestrians

Traffic signals may:

  • Not prevent all types crashes
  • Increase rear-end collisions
  • Create a false sense of security, particularly for pedestrians
  • Increase cut-through traffic in nearby neighborhoods
  • Create unnecessary delays at certain times
  • Increases air pollution from idling vehicles
  • Lead to red-light running if travelers don't feel the stop is needed

Bicycle Detection at Traffic Signals

Traffic signals can detect cyclists with either detection cameras or loops.

Detection cameras scan the road to see if bicycles and vehicles are waiting for the signal. A computer program adds time to the green signal to give cyclists more time to cross the road. Detection loops are electrically charged wires in the pavement. The traffic signal is called when metal of bicycles and other vehicles interrupts the electric current.

The best place to wait for the signal depends on the shape of the loop:

  • Diamond: Inside one of the points
  • Circle: A quarter from the side of the circle
  • Rectangle: At the middle front

Report traffic signal problems by submitting a service request or calling 503-846-7950.

How to Trigger a Traffic Light with a Bicycle

Street Lighting

Lighting fixtures must meet current standards when they are installed. Streetlights are usually maintained by either Portland General Electric (PGE) or Washington County. To report a street light problem complete the form on PGE's web site or call 800-544-1795.

Speed Limits

Speed limits on Washington County roads are set by the Oregon Department of Transportation (ODOT). Oregon follows the Basic Rule, which means that drivers are expected to drive at a reasonable speed for the conditions and situation, but not faster than the speed limit in that zone. 

There are two types of speed zones: 

Statutory speed zones are not posted and the speed set by law (ORS 811.111). 

Designated speed zones are posted by the local authority and may be different than the statutory speed zone. (ORS 810.180

Speed studies, crash history and road conditions are reviewed when setting speed limits. Speed limits that seem too low may cause speeding. Reasonable speed limits help people follow the law. 

To request a speed limit change for County roads: 

  • Send your request to [email protected]
  • We will verify the road is maintained by Washington County, if so: 
  • Speed counts will be taken on the road. If the conditions show the road may meet ODOT’s rules for speed zone change, then: 
  • The County may request that a lower speed zone be set. 
  • ODOT will review the road and approve or deny the request. 

Requests for speed changes on city streets and highways must be sent to that agency for review. 

Learn more about Traffic Calming and see if your neighborhood is eligible for the Neighborhood Streets Program.


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