Speed changes coming to some urban highways in Utah

By Keith Goble, Land Line state legislative editor | 11/17/2014

The Utah Department of Transportation announced on Friday, Nov. 14, it is planning to raise the speed limit from 65 mph to 70 mph on certain stretches of urban interstates.

Gov. Gary Herbert signed a bill into law in the spring authorizing more stretches of roadways around the state to be posted with higher speed limits. The law requires engineering and safety studies to be completed before any changes can be made.

Utah law already authorizes 75 mph speeds for cars and trucks 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 the first stretch of roadway posted at 80 mph. A year ago, the governor 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 2014 law continues the trend. HB80 allows 80 mph speeds on rural stretches of interstates and limited-access highways throughout the state. In addition, transportation officials can sign off on speed increases from 65 mph to 70 mph or 75 mph in urban areas.

Segments of roadway affected are I-15 from Spanish Fork to Ogden, all of I-215 in the Salt Lake City area, and on I-80 from 1300 East to 5600 West.

Truckers have voiced concern that higher speed limits result in a wider disparity between the posted speed and how fast many speed-limited trucks can travel.

OOIDA officials say that speed limiters on trucks have a tendency to create speed differentials between trucks and other faster moving vehicles. The Association cites research that shows when speed differentials are present the frequency of interactions with other vehicles increases.

Rep. Jim Dunnigan, R-Taylorsville, has said that cars and trucks would continue to drive at or near the same speed they travel now. He 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.”

UDOT officials say they expect to have signs changed in affected areas before the end of the year.

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