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Utah Highway Patrol troopers were warning drivers to watch their speeds and to slow down to posted limits, as Utah Department of Transportation workers were beginning their work on a major road construction project on the I-215 west belt Tuesday night.
The project, which includes bridge replacements at S.R. 201 and the addition of auxiliary lanes to the interchanges at S.R. 201, 3500 South and 4700 South, isn’t expected to be complete until fall of next year.
Meantime, troopers said they were going to be looking for speeding and other driver misbehavior in the new construction zone in order to keep drivers and road crews safe.
“Reducing the speeds becomes a critical component,” Trooper Mark Thompson said. “We’ll watch speeds, we’ll watch lane travel, we’ll watch all of those things that can be a hazard or can be a contributor to crashes.”
Patrolling a stretch of I-215 west near 4700 South Tuesday afternoon ahead of the road work, Thompson did not have a hard time finding drivers traveling 10 miles per hour or more above the posted speed limit of 70.
Thompson noted the potential hazard in light of the speed limit being reduced during construction.
“Even if people slow 10 miles an hour, you’re still looking at more than 20 miles an hour over the speed limit,” Thompson said, after pulling over a driver he said he clocked at 86 miles per hour using a LiDAR speed gun.
In an era of modern technology and finite resources, UHP uses data to determine what areas need increased enforcement the most.
“All of that can be used to try and allocate resources to the most critical spots,” Thompson said. “When we can make a sustained effort, especially based on crash contributors, the data collected from speeds of vehicles, we can have a significant impact on it.”
Still, the need for enforcement in construction zones is obvious to troopers.
“Construction zones are definitely areas that get highlighted, especially when they’re new construction zones because of the changes that occur,” Thompson said.
Thompson said drivers must heed the posted speed limit, whatever it is.
“Whether they’re working currently, whether it’s an active work zone with workers present, lane closures, whatever it may be — it doesn’t matter,” Thompson said. “Once it’s posted, it’s posted.”