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PROPOSED SPEED LIMITS ARE SIGNS OF CHANGING TIMES

The state will increase speed limits to 75 mph on some stretches of interstate by the end of the month, but proposed changes are not as sweeping as some envisioned.

Many rural segments will be limited to 70 mph, and urban interstates will keep their 65 mph ceiling.The increases are being proposed by the Utah Department of Transportation, which under a new state law has the power to set limits on Utah interstates as high as 75 mph. The statute was enacted after Congress repealed federal speed limits late last year.

"We made our proposals based on terrain and urban activity," said Sterling Davis, UDOT's engineer for traffic and safety. "We tended to back off where there's development and where there's sharp curves and steeper hills."

Among the surprises:

- Traffic on I-15 from the Arizona border through the St. George area to Zion National Park will be limited to 70 mph.

- Though the speed limit from I-80 to and from Wendover on the Nevada state line is 75 mph for most of the trip, it slows to 70 mph several miles west of Salt Lake City.

- Some largely rural interstates in Utah will be kept at 65 mph, among them I-80 through Parleys Canyon. Certain other rural expanses - such as most of I-15 through Box Elder County and I-70 in Sevier and Emery counties - will be limited to 70 mph.

Other notable exceptions to the 75-mph ceiling include a short stretch of I-70 through the rugged San Rafael Swell (60 mph), I-15 through mountainous terrain north of Beaver (65 mph) and I-15 as it traverses the gradually developing countryside around Payson (70 mph).

UDOT spokesman Kent Hansen said the changes can't be formally adopted until the agency consults with the Utah Highway Patrol and with municipalities along the interstate system. The Utah Transportation Commission signed off on the changes on Thursday.

He cautioned that no local speed-limit increase is final until signs go up.

UDOT expects to spend $100,000 to swap out about 1,000 signs on Utah's interstate system.

Davis said that although the department is studying the possibility of increasing some speed limits on rural two-lanes from 55 mph to 60 mph or 65 mph, the logistics of restriping no-passing lanes will delay those changes until later in the year.