Lawmakers moved Tuesday toward capping how many non-carpoolers may use freeway express lanes, creating a new "In God We Trust" license plate and allowing drivers at some unusual new interchanges to turn either right or left on red lights.
The House Transportation Committee voted 6-3 to endorse HB23, which would allow the state to cap how many hybrid and other clean-fuel vehicles with solo drivers may use carpool lanes. Currently, owners of such vehicles may apply for decals to allow them to use those lanes anytime without paying tolls, even if the cars contain only the driver. However, Utah Department of Transportation officials say such cars are becoming so popular that they could eventually swamp the express lanes, so they want the ability to cap numbers if needed.
The bill's sponsor, Rep. Steve Handy, R-Layton, noted that the state would face federal sanctions if the average speed in express lanes ever falls below 45 miles per hour, which UDOT worries could happen if too many clean-fuel cars are allowed there.
The committee also voted 9-1 to endorse HB34 to allow creation of an "In God We Trust" license plate.
The idea for the plates comes from 11-year-old Tate Christensen of Salt Lake City. He has collected license plates from all 50 states, and did research showing that 12 other states offer specialty plates with the "In God We Trust" motto but not Utah.
The plates would be available for an extra $25 fee. Proceeds of that extra fee would go to groups that hold July 4 celebrations, with at least 20 events, that honor family and god. Some lawmakers previously complained that only America's Freedom Festival in Provo would likely qualify for the funds.
The committee also voted unanimously to endorse HB272 to allow some drivers at new "diverging diamond" freeway interchanges to turn right or left on red lights, if the traffic is clear. The unique design of those interchanges has some drivers at traffic signals finding one-way traffic both to their right and left.
Their unusual design eliminates left-turn signals by having traffic that would normally travel on the right-hand side of the road cross temporarily over to the left as it passes over or under another highway, and then it crosses back. From above, the traffic design looks like a helix.
Laws currently clearly allow turning right on a red light. The bill would also allow turning left into one-way traffic at such intersections, if signage there allows it. UDOT officials say that may especially help current backing at a "diverging diamond" interchange at Thanksgiving Point in Lehi.
All the bills now go to the full House for consideration.