Variable speed limit in place on I-80 |

Variable speed limit in place on I-80

Aaron Osowski, The Park Record

The Utah Department of Transportation unveiled its new variable speed limit system on Interstate 80 in Parley s Canyon on Tuesday. The system allows UDOT engineers to modify the speed limit in eight different zones based on weather conditions. (Photo by Adan Carrillo)

In an effort to make driving in and out of Parley’s Canyon safer, the Utah Department of Transportation now has a new system that allows for a variable speed limit to accommodate for weather hazards.

Robert Miles, UDOT’s Region 2 East District Engineer, said UDOT had a group of engineers take a look at areas around the West that have speed issues. Interstate 80 through Parley’s Canyon was one such area of concern. This new system, Miles said, is modeled off of Washington state’s Snoqualmie Pass on I-90.

"[Parley’s Canyon] had the fiber background and the infrastructure and it had the weather we were looking for and the traffic flows," Miles said. "We put a lot of effort into making I-80 safer and into keeping the canyon open in the winter."

The system is a collection of 15 LED variable speed limit signs, with eight on the eastbound side and seven on the westbound side. The east and westbound sides are also divided into upper and lower canyon areas, creating eight different zones on which UDOT engineers can modify the speed limit based on weather concerns.

At a total cost of around $750,000, the system collects data from I-80 such as roadway temperatures and slickness, air temperatures, humidity, visibility and traffic speeds. Miles said he hopes the variable speed limit system will have an impact on traffic safety.

" encouraging people to travel a more consistent speed, we really think we can make an impact on safety," Miles said. "We’re trying to target crashes that occur in winter operations."

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Miles said that, in 2012, there were 275 automobile accidents on I-80 from Jeremy Ranch to Parley’s Canyon, 88 of those occurring in hazardous weather conditions.

The regular speed limit signs were removed on Tuesday, and Miles said this system is not intended to change the speed limit during sunny days. If this system works well, he said it could be implemented in other areas as well.

"We’re still learning how it’s going to be received and how big of a difference it’s going to make," Miles said. "We would like people who use the canyon to be safe."