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The City of Portland, Oregon

Portland Bureau of Transportation

Phone: 503-823-5185

Fax: 503-823-7576

1120 SW Fifth Ave, Suite 800, Portland, OR 97204

More Contact Info

School Flashing Beacons

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Traffic conditions near schools can seriously affect the safety of school children walking, biking, or being driven to school. Although by law, school zones have a 20 MPH speed limit when certain conditions are met, the posted limits alone don't always ensure the safety of children as they are crossing a street.

The City of Portland has installed flashing beacons at many schools to alert drivers that they are in a school zone, children are likely to be present, and the speed limit is 20 MPH.

School beacons are flashing lights placed above the school zone signs - in many cases at marked, patrolled elementary school crosswalks. Beacons are activated when children are expected to be present, such as before and after school, the lunch hour, and recess.

When the light is flashing, the speed limit is 20 MPH - even if children are not present. 

All the beacons have signs explaining that when the lights are flashing, a 20 MPH speed limit is enforced in the school zone. However, police officers can issue citations at any time a safety violation occurs that endangers children.

In the past, beacons were equipped with special timers that activated the flashing light just prior to and after school. With these timers, any change in school hours or special events required a special trip to the location to re-program the clock.

The City's Traffic Signal Maintenance Shop designed and built a pager controlled system for the school beacons by using only one pager phone number to control all of the beacons in the City. The system allows for greater flexibility in handling school special events, such as late openings or early closures. In addition, individual schools are able to operate the beacons themselves.


Greg Raisman



School Zone Regulations

In 2005 the Oregon legislature acted to simplify the school zone laws under House Bill 2840. The Governor signed the bill into law on July 20, 2005. Read a brochure explaining the new school zone law.
The new law does away with the "At All Times" school zones. The new law has only two categories of school zones:

  • school zones on roadways adjacent to school grounds
  • school zones at a school crosswalk away from school grounds 

School zones on roadways adjacent to school grounds can be either:

  • "When Flashing" (using a flashing beacon with signs); or
  • "School Days 7AM to 5PM" (using signs only)

Those school zones at a school crosswalk away from school grounds can be either:

  • "When Flashing" (using a flashing beacon with signs); or
  • "When Children are Present" (using signs only)