You can drive 85 - in Texas
The new Texas State Highway 130 tollway runs from near Austin to near San Antonio.
September 7th, 2012
09:57 AM ET

You can drive 85 - in Texas

The saying goes that everything is bigger in Texas. This fall that will apply to speed, too.

The Texas Transportation Commission has approved an 85-mph speed limit for a new toll road between Austin and San Antonio. It will be the highest speed limit in the United States, according to local news reports.

The toll road is a 41-mile stretch of  Texas State Highway 130 known as Segments 5 and 6, running from Mustang Ridge near Austin to Seguin outside of San Antonio. If motorists drive at the speed limit, they'll cover the 41 miles in less than a half hour.

The 85-mph limit surpasses the current high in the United States, set on portions of Interstate 15 in Utah and sections of I-10 and I-20 in west Texas, according to the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety.

But are the higher speeds safe?

The Insurance Institute says the higher the speed, the more dangerous for the motorists. Higher speeds limit reaction times, increases braking distances and put stresses on safety equipment in cars and on roads, the institute says.

"There are limits to the amount of crash energy that can be managed by vehicles, restraint systems and roadway hardware such as barriers and crash cushions. The higher the speed, the higher the likelihood that these limits will be exceeded in crashes, limiting the protection available for vehicle occupants," according to the institute's website.

Texas officials say safety won't be compromised by the higher speeds.

"Safety is our top priority and tests have shown the designated speed is a safe one," Mark Cross, a spokesman for the Texas Department of Transportation, is quoted as saying by the Texas Tribune.

The SH 130 Concession Co. which built and will operate the toll road, says motorists bear responsibility for safety.

"We are committed to operating a safe, reliable highway for our customers. On any road, drivers hold the key to safety based on traffic, travel conditions and the capabilities of their own vehicles," the company said in a statement, according to the Houston Chronicle.

Tolls have yet to be set, but whatever they are drivers won't have to slow down to pay them.

"There will be no toll plazas on segments 5 & 6 of SH 130. Tolls will be collected electronically at certain points along the roadway, meaning motorists will not have to slow down or stop. Traffic will be 100% free flowing," according to The SH 130 Concession Co., which was formed by the Spanish construction company Cintra and the Texas company Zachary American Infrastructure.

Officials hope drivers will use the highway to avoid and alleviate congestion on Interstate 35, which the toll road operators say is more congested in the area than at any part in its entire length, from Canada to Mexico.

"We look forward to opening this segment of SH 130, which will help reduce congestion for the Austin-San Antonio corridor by providing Texas drivers and others with an alternate route for traveling through our great state," Cross told the Texas Tribune.

The toll road is required to open by November 11 but may open sooner.

"We are confident we will be open ahead of schedule,” Chris Lippincott, spokesman for the SH 130 Concession Company, told Texas Weekly.

While the higher speed promises quicker trips for drivers, it also means more money into state coffers. The concession company will pay the Texas Department of Transportation a $100 million bonus for the 85-mph limits, the Texas Tribune reported. If the limit had been set at 80 mph, the bonus would have been only $67 million, according to the report.

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Filed under: Texas • Transportation
soundoff (711 Responses)
  1. billmosby

    I have to admit I enjoy our 80 mph stretches on I-15. It makes the drive from SLC to St. George just that much more enjoyable. But people still go by us 10 or 15 mph faster than that, just like they do for any other speed limit.

    September 7, 2012 at 5:34 pm | Report abuse | Reply
  2. bill

    Life begins at a buck 35. Got boost?

    September 7, 2012 at 5:35 pm | Report abuse | Reply
  3. FactChecker

    If you live in the midwest you know how ridiculous it is to raise the speed limit on 41 miles of road. Just drive through west Texas for a BORING 400 miles.

    September 7, 2012 at 6:02 pm | Report abuse | Reply
    • Sparkle

      It's for commuters, therefore that point is moot.

      September 7, 2012 at 6:18 pm | Report abuse |
    • Layne

      And if you live in south Texas, and have to contend with the IH-35 stop and go traffic between San Antonio and Austin, you'know how irrelevant your comment is. That 41 mile stretch will take 35 minutes to drive on the new toll road. It takes twice that long on IH-35 on weekdays. Either way, west Texas is hundreds of miles away.

      September 7, 2012 at 7:02 pm | Report abuse |
  4. Rustydog

    My car feels very comfortable at 80 mph. Yes, I could go faster, say 85 mph, but 80 mph is fast enough for me. The danger is people driving 90-95 mph without much driving skill, and people that will not yield to faster traffic.

    September 7, 2012 at 6:07 pm | Report abuse | Reply
  5. CantDrive55

    Ok, how's this for a theory: The new 85 MPH will reduce accidents and save lives. Why? A major cause of traffic accident s isn't necessarily speed, but rather DIFFERENTIAL SPEED. Differential speed is what happens on regular slow highways where some law abiding folks insist on driving 65, while others in a hurry frequently push it over 80. This difference in speed means there are more opportunities for cars to get tangled up. But if the speed limit is 85, and everyone is doing 85, then there will be less car-car interaction, there by reducing accidents.

    Ok, well it's a valiant try....

    September 7, 2012 at 6:14 pm | Report abuse | Reply
    • Tim W.

      So if your car can not go 85 or if you feel unsafe at 85....you can not use the road ? I sure hope this road was not paid for with taxes taken from all the Texas drivers....if so they are getting screwed !

      September 7, 2012 at 6:34 pm | Report abuse |
    • Smokey Yunik

      Is it ok to use my cell phone while I'm driving 85 on this private road?

      September 7, 2012 at 7:14 pm | Report abuse |
    • banasy©

      Law-abiding citizens know that the left lane is the passing lane, and slower traffic stays in the right lanes...

      September 7, 2012 at 7:41 pm | Report abuse |
    • talbet

      A lot of cars don't even do 70 when the limit is 70. It's not like everyone is driving around in BMW's or even Mustangs or a new Nissan for that matter. Then there's the old people. And drunk drivers. Sounds like a recipe for big time disaster to me.

      September 7, 2012 at 8:05 pm | Report abuse |
    • Hez316

      Similar to autobahn in Germany

      September 7, 2012 at 8:11 pm | Report abuse |
  6. CantDrive55

    With those high-tech, no-stopping toll systems they have now, it won't be long before they completely change how highways are use. I can see a future where the high speed lanes will cost more. Rich folks will happily pay $10 to go 100 in the high speed lane while the burger flippers will be in the slow 0.25 lane. Kinda like what they want to do with the internet.

    September 7, 2012 at 6:21 pm | Report abuse | Reply
    • banasy©

      They already *do* that on net speeds, lol.

      September 7, 2012 at 6:57 pm | Report abuse |
  7. Tony

    For those unfamiliar with Germany's autobahn, read the wikipedia article, particularly the sections on public debate and on traffic laws and enforcement. Very illuminating. High speed alone isn't a reason for accidents (limited access, grade separated motorways such as the autobahn are relatively safe), the rules of the road for the autobahn are pretty reasonable, and modern cars have better fuel economy at higher speed than older cars.

    September 7, 2012 at 6:23 pm | Report abuse | Reply
  8. Guest

    Lots better than those shemes and dreams to build levitation trains and similar stuff! People are responsible for their own fate...what a switch!

    September 7, 2012 at 6:31 pm | Report abuse | Reply
    • Yeehaw!

      In America, where we value independence, everyone MUST drive a car ... EVERY day ... NO exceptions

      What a strange "FATE" you've agreed to - what? You mean you had no say in this at all? Oh well: Drive faster!

      YEEHAW!

      September 7, 2012 at 8:22 pm | Report abuse |
  9. Jerry

    Don't you just LOVE having to pay tolls to use State Highways and Interstates???

    September 7, 2012 at 7:07 pm | Report abuse | Reply
  10. scottaustintexas

    I live in Austin, family in San Antonio. I'd gladly (legally) get there in half an hour. Besides, people whizz by at least 85 mph already.

    September 7, 2012 at 7:26 pm | Report abuse | Reply
  11. Ralph in Orange Park, FL

    Big whoop. I see people driving at least that fast on I-295 every day. Most of them do not get pulled over.

    September 7, 2012 at 7:30 pm | Report abuse | Reply
  12. JT

    Before thinking about going faster people need to start paying more attention to their driving behaviors. American's tent to act like selfish A**es behind the wheel, we won't move out the way in the passing lane, we distract ourselves with all kind of things while we are driving, cutting over two or three lanes just to make an exit and does most peoples turn signal's work? If we don't change our behavior first, faster speeds will just kill more people. The Autobahn in Germany has less fatalities a year than we do but their driving habits and following what needs to be done while driving are much different than here.

    September 7, 2012 at 7:43 pm | Report abuse | Reply
  13. KlintzCNN

    Germany's Autobahn is safe for one reason: the people's cars are designed for high-speed crashes.

    American automakers balk at having to create a car that can survive an impact at 45 MPH...

    Eurocars also have speed-rated tires. (Read: expensive) Americans balk at paying anything over $200 for a set of four tires.

    September 7, 2012 at 7:48 pm | Report abuse | Reply
    • John

      Yes, cars in Germany are built for sustained higer speeds, but the biggest difference, and why the Autobahn is lightyears ahead of the American Interstate system is the quality of driver. Germans treat driving with the respect it needs to be treated. They pay well over $1,000 for their first DL, their drivers education is far more complete than the four hours of in-car drivers ed I had in high school, they don't play around with drinking and driving, and Germans believe if you worry about the number of cupholders in your car, you are in a car for the wrong reason. Every American needs to spend a couple months driving on the Autobahn to learn the proper way to drive an automobile.

      September 7, 2012 at 8:18 pm | Report abuse |
    • sparky

      more than 200$ for 4 new tires, minimally

      September 7, 2012 at 8:20 pm | Report abuse |
  14. Tyhouston

    I live in Texas, every nut job with a truck does 90 in rain with 10 feet visability...

    Just another day

    September 7, 2012 at 7:52 pm | Report abuse | Reply
  15. Sean

    When people are trying to save money and conserve gas how do you combat that? By raising the speed limit, it's a brilliant move really that was put into motion by the big oil companies. The beauty is that it's in Texas, nobody there is smart enough to realize they are being had.

    September 7, 2012 at 7:57 pm | Report abuse | Reply
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