Only victory lap left for bill to expand 80 mph speed zones on Utah’s roads
Senate action • Give preliminary approval to appropriately named HB80.
Published: February 21, 2014 08:01AM
Updated: February 20, 2014 09:51PM

Nothing is left but essentially a ceremonial victory lap for a bill to vastly expand 80 mph speed limits on Utah’s highways.

The Senate voted 23-4 on Thursday to give preliminary approval to the appropriately named HB80. It needs a final Senate OK before being sent to Gov. Gary Herbert for his signature, but that should be easy based on Thursday’s action.

The only opposition Thursday came from senators who protested raising the speed limit at the same time that lawmakers this year killed an effort to toughen seat belt laws.

“I would be thrilled to vote for this is we had a mandatory seat belt law in tandem,” said Sen. Jim Dabakis, D-Salt Lake City. Sen. Luz Robles, D-Salt Lake City, who sponsored the seat belt bill added that expanding 80 mph zones “is not responsible” without a stricter seat-belt law.

Sen. Brian Shiozawa, R-Cottonwood Heights, is a physician who says he has worked on people ejected in car accidents who did not wear seat belts. He also acknowleged that he enjoys driving 80 mph. “I love the bill, but I have to vote no because I’m not crazy about the safety aspect.”

Last year, Utah added 289 extra miles of 80-mph-speed limits on select rural-freeway stretches. The new bill would expand such zones to any freeway or limited-access divided highways where the Utah Department of Transportation finds that higher speeds make engineering and safety sense.

UDOT officials also would have authority to raise speed limits above the current 65 mph on urban freeways without taking it all the way to 80 mph, depending on their site-specific analysis.