Utah House endorses more 80 mph speeds

By Keith Goble, Land Line state legislative editor | Tuesday, February 11, 2014

One year after Utah lawmakers authorized 80 mph speeds on more stretches of roadways, another effort halfway through the statehouse would take faster speeds statewide.

State law now authorizes 75 mph speeds on interstates and other limited access roadways in rural areas. However, during the past few years a 5-mph boost has been authorized on about 380 miles of roadways.

In 2009 a stretch of Interstate 15 between Nephi and Cedar City was posted at 80 mph. A year ago, Gov. Gary Herbert signed into law a bill to expand the portion of I-15 where speeds can reach 80 mph. Faster speeds were also approved for stretches of Interstates 80 and 84.

Specifically, truckers and other drivers are 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.

The House voted 63-8 to advance a bill to the Senate that would allow 80 mph speeds on rural stretches of roadways throughout the state. In addition, highways in urban areas could have speeds increased from 65 mph to 70 mph or 75 mph.

Engineering and safety studies would be required to be completed before any changes could be made.

“(HB80) continues the process we started five and a half years ago to look at the speed limit on interstate highways,” Rep. Jim Dunnigan, R-Taylorsville told House lawmakers during floor discussion. “This bill allows UDOT to look at the rest of the interstates and limited-access highways to see if the posted speed limits are appropriate.”

Addressing concerns about higher speeds, supporters have said that cars and trucks would continue to drive at or near the same speed they travel now.

Dunnigan said that 85 percent of drivers on test sections of I-15 posted at 80 mph since 2009 now drive 83 mph – up from 82 mph before the change.

“So far, we’re finding out that changing the number on the sign hasn’t changed people’s behavior. But we do have greater compliance with the speed limit.”

HB80 awaits further consideration in the Senate Transportation and Public Utilities and Technology Committee.

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