UDOT to raise speed limits on urban interstates to 70 mph

Posted at 10:53 AM, Nov 14, 2014
and last updated 2014-11-14 23:23:57-05

SALT LAKE CITY -- The Utah Department of Transportation said it is planning to raise the speed limits to 70 miles per hour on urban interstates.

The change would affect I-15 from Spanish Fork to Ogden, I-80 from 5600 West to near the mouth of Parley's Canyon and all of I-215. At a meeting in Price on Friday, UDOT presented its findings to a transportation committee.

Barring any major complaints, the speed limit increase would take effect mid-December. UDOT is looking at speed limit increases in the St. George area as well.

The proposed speed limit changes came after months of studying. UDOT conducted radar examinations of commuter speeds.

"We know exactly every segment of the roadway how fast people are averaging their speeds," said Jason Davis, UDOT's Operations Director. "We also look at all the crash data, and we look at the roadway geometry and  take all that into account and apply some judgment as well."

No surprise to many commuters, people are driving over the 65 mile per hour speed limit. But drivers FOX 13 spoke with had mixed reaction to the idea of raising speeds.

"I like to get where I'm going faster without being pulled over," said Cassandra Dubois.

Grant Larimer described himself as "borderline" on the idea of raising speed limits. Susan Daynes supported 70 -- but no higher.

"I think 70 is enough," she said.

Sgt. Todd Royce of the Utah Highway Patrol spoke about the proposed change, and he said that because fatal crashes on Utah roadways have been on the increase, they don't feel like it is in the best interest of Utahns for speed limits to be raised.

Royce said increases in speed translate into increases in serious injuries and deaths, and he said that increasing speed limits without a primary seat belt law is counter intuitive. He said even an increase of the speed limit by 5 mph can mean drivers will feel like they can travel faster than the posted limit.

UDOT has already raised the speed limit to 80 miles per hour on rural interstates and reported no significant problems. But UDOT insisted that raising the speed limit in more heavily congested areas would not lead to more crashes.

"The majority of those (crashes) were driving too fast for conditions -- not necessarily driving faster than 65 miles per hour -- but driving to fast for the conditions or, in some cases, driving faster than 90 miles per hour," Davis said.

Some spots -- like sharp turns where I-80 and I-15 meet -- will remain 65 mile per hour zones, UDOT said. SR 201 is also expected to stay 65.