SALT LAKE CITY — A House bill would establish criteria to determine whether the speed limit on a section of freeway could be raised to 80 mph.

The two members of the Senate Transportation and Public Utilities Committee who stuck around long enough to vote Wednesday did so in favor of allowing speed limits along more stretches of freeway to be raised as high as 80 mph.

HB80 would allow the Utah Department of Transportation to establish higher speed limits on freeways after performing a study.

Bill sponsor Rep. Jim Dunnigan, R-Taylorsville, said the eligibility of a road would be determined by crash data, design speed, prevailing speeds and other factors.

As part of a methodical process of evaluating interstate speeds, speed limits have been increased to 80 mph on 379 miles in Utah over the past five years, Dunnigan said.

"What this year's bill does is it allows UDOT to evaluate the rest of the interstate and limited-access highways … to see if the posted speeds are the appropriate ones," he said.

UDOT would look at it from an engineering perspective by first checking crash rates and then conducting a speed study to see how fast people are driving, said Linda Hull, UDOT's director of policy and legislative services.

"We're basing it on what people are actually driving, not what the speed limit is," Hull said. "So we're comfortable with the approach of allowing the science to drive the decision."

— Madeleine Brown