Utah one step closer to expanding 80 mph speeds

By Keith Goble, Land Line state legislative editor | 2/12/2013

One step closer to passage in Utah is a bill to authorize 80 mph speeds on more stretches of roadways. Two more bills are intended to improve traffic and safety.

State law now authorizes 75 mph speeds on interstates and other limited access roadways in rural areas. However, since 2009 a stretch of Interstate 15 between Nephi and Cedar City has been posted at 80 mph.

The Senate Transportation, Public Utilities and Technology Committee voted unanimously Monday, Feb. 11, to advance a House-approved bill that would expand the portion of I-15 where speeds can reach 80 mph. HB83 would also add stretches of Interstates 80 and 84.

Specifically, truckers and other drivers could soon be authorized for faster travel from Brigham City to the Idaho border, on I-84 from Tremonton to the Idaho line and along I-80 from Grantsville to the Nevada border.

Addressing concerns about higher speeds, Rep. Jim Donavan, R-Taylorsville, said that 85 percent of drivers on the affected roads already drive 82 mph.

“The speed would be set at the speed limit that people want to drive,” Dunnigan told lawmakers. “It is the natural flow.”

Some lawmakers expressed interest in expanding the roadways that would be authorized for faster travel. A rebuilt stretch of I-15 from Lehi to Spanish Fork was mentioned as a potential candidate.

The unamended bill’s next stop is the Senate floor. If approved there, HB83 would head to Gov. Gary Herbert’s desk. House lawmakers already approved it on a 69-5 vote.

Another bill moving quickly through the statehouse would authorize left turns on red at certain new intersections.

The Senate Transportation, Public Utilities and Technology Committee voted unanimously to send a bill to the full Senate that would permit traffic to turn left on a red arrow at new “diverging diamond” freeway interchanges. House lawmakers already approved HB272 on a 72-1 vote.

“We can improve efficiency of our citizens time and reduce idle time,” Rep. Mike Kennedy, R-Alpine, told panel members.

The authorization would be limited to situations when traffic is clear and signage authorizes such action.

Senate lawmakers voted unanimously to approve another bill that would limit use of a runaway ramp for emergencies only. Blocking access to ramps by “stopping, standing or parking” in the pathway would also be prohibited.

SB123 is in the House Transportation Committee.

To view other legislative activities of interest for Utah, click here.

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