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Utah boosts rural interstate speed limit up to 80 mph

For travelers on I-84 heading east toward Oregon, Idaho can feel like the speediest state around, with its 75 mph speed limit on the freeway. But as soon as motorists hit the Oregon line, they drop back down to a 65 mph limit. Now, Utah is taking it up a notch: That state passed a new law this year raising speed limits on rural stretches of interstate to 80 mph, after a Utah Department of Transportation study showed fewer crashes at the higher speed. Signs are going up this week with the new limits. Among the new, speedier stretches: Interstate 15 from north of Brigham City to the Idaho border in northern Utah; Interstate 80 from the Nevada border to Utah Route 36 in eastern Utah; and I-15 between Santaquin and North Leeds in central-southern Utah. Click below for a full report from the AP in Salt Lake City. 

Signs going up for more 80 mph zones in Utah

SALT LAKE CITY (AP) — Get ready to rev your engine if you're driving on rural Utah interstates: Signs are going up this week increasing the speed limit on many stretches to 80 mph.

The Legislature approved the new, faster zones during the last session. State Department of Transportation workers are putting up the new signs this week, said spokesman John Gleason.

The change was spurred by a Department of Transportation study based on three years of data from experimental stretches of Utah highways with 80 mph speed limits. The evaluation concluded that fewer crashes occurred because drivers were traveling at similar speeds, decreasing the danger when lead-footers come up on slower drivers.

The new, permanent fast zones include Interstate 80 from the Nevada border to Utah Route 36 in eastern Utah, and Interstate 15 from north of Brigham City to the Idaho border in northern Utah.

Speeds will also be increased on I-15 between Santaquin and North Leeds in central-southern Utah. The 75 mph zones remain on that stretch through two mountain passes and Cedar City.

“As soon as the signs are posted, they are official,” Gleason said.

None of the 80 mph zones are within the heavily populated Wasatch Front, a string of cities from Brigham City on the north to Santaquin on the south that is home to nearly two-thirds of Utah's 2.8 million residents.

Texas also has roads with speed limits surpassing 75 mph, including a toll road with a speed limit of 85 mph.

Before passing the legislation, the sponsor, Rep. James Dunnigan, R-Taylorsville, made sure Utah wouldn't lose federal funding after staking its 80 mph signs.

Copyright 2013 The Associated Press

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Betsy Z. Russell covers Idaho news from The Spokesman-Review's bureau in Boise.

Named best state-based political blog in Idaho for 2013 by The Fix

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