Utah lawmakers approve 80 mph speeds

By Keith Goble, Land Line state legislative editor | 2/27/2013

A bill to authorize 80 mph speeds on more stretches of Utah roadways is headed to the governor’s desk.

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 Cityhas been posted at 80 mph.

The Utah Senate voted unanimously 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.

“This is the coolest bill of the whole year,” Sen. Scott Jenkins, R-Plain City, told Senate lawmakers during floor consideration. He noted that in the four years since the change was implemented, road safety has improved.

“More people started driving toward the right, so there was no negative effect to it.”

Addressing concerns about higher speeds as the bill moved through the statehouse, Rep. Jim Dunnigan, R-Taylorsville, said that cars and trucks would continue to drive at or near the same speed they now travel.

He said that 85 percent of drivers on the affected stretch of I-80 drive 83 mph – up from 82 mph before the change.

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

Dunnigan also addressed concerns about air quality. He said that studies show that most vehicles on the road today emit the same amount of pollution when they are driving 85 mph as they would at 55 mph.

The bill now awaits action from Gov. Gary Herbert.

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

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