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SALT LAKE CITY — A Utah lawmaker wants to make it easier for Utahns to get to where they're going — at least, if they are using the high-occupancy vehicle lane.
Rep. Kenneth Sumsion, R-American Fork, will propose a bill during the current legislative session that could increase the speed limit on Interstate 15 in only the HOV lane to 75 m.p.h. from 65 m.p.h., the current speed limit.
Sumsion said he was motivated by seeing how little the HOV lane is used during off-peak hours.
"I was simply looking for a creative way to encourage more usage of that lane," he said.
That encouragement, according to Sumsion, would come in two different forms. Those who purchase an Express Pass would be able to go faster on the freeway without the worry of getting cited. People wishing to benefit from the change could also carpool more during the day.
If the bill were to pass, UDOT would look into it and study on it to make sure that the speed limit is safe.
Sumsion said that he has received some calls from constituents concerned with the safety implications of the proposed bill. He said, though, that common sense also plays a role when it comes to freeway speeds.
"When traffic slows down in the fast lanes because of rush hour, people in the HOV lane tend to slow down too," Sumsion said. "They think, ‘If a car jumps in front of me, and I'm going significantly faster than they are, that puts me at risk.' So they slow down."
The bill, if passed, would not mandate an increase in the speed limit. Rather, it would allow for an increase if the Utah Department of Transportation deemed it a safe move.
"If the bill were to pass, UDOT would look into it and study on it to make sure that the speed limit is safe," said Tonia Mashburn, a department spokeswoman. "If the studies showed it to be safe, I assume we would be able to raise the speed limit."
The current 65 m.p.h. speed limit on much of I-15 applies to all lanes. Vehicles with two or more occupants, motorcycles, buses, C-plate vehicles and drivers with Express Passes are eligible to use the HOV lane.