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. Tampabay

    If I drive at the speed limit on any interstate, I get passed by and honked and flashed headlights. I can do 75-80 mph no problems.

    September 8, 2012 at 12:44 am | Report abuse |
  2. wasserball

    Damn, TX did something right. Now, I'm going to have to let my German friends we are not slowpokes.

    September 8, 2012 at 12:53 am | Report abuse |
  3. onestarman

    TEXAS AUTObomb – Unlimited Speed from El Paso to Houston and Fatalities be Damned

    September 8, 2012 at 12:57 am | Report abuse |
  4. T L K

    Just give me a cold red stripe beer...a nice j and some tunes and I will drive that 85 mph so smoothly....I hope other states do the same...an autobahn nation lol

    September 8, 2012 at 1:03 am | Report abuse |
  5. Leif

    Then the price of gas should go up in Texas in order to reflect the resulting poor fuel efficiency.

    September 8, 2012 at 2:32 am | Report abuse |
  6. Leif

    The price of health insurance should also go up accordingly.

    September 8, 2012 at 2:33 am | Report abuse |
  7. David B.

    People will abuse this and go 100. The average speed limit is always 15 miles over whatever it is supposed to be. People are always speeding and this would give them more leverage to break the law again. Perhaps they should have speed sensors and radars to monitor it.

    September 8, 2012 at 3:25 am | Report abuse |
    • Mark

      Spot on, if the limit is 70... most people go 80-85 already lol. So if the limit is 85... then most will go 100 or more. Fine with my honestly. Limits should be raised as technology and our vehicles improve.

      September 8, 2012 at 6:20 am | Report abuse |
    • Ralph

      Oklahoma has 75 mph speed limits, but I dare not go over 80, because they say "no tolerance". i.e. they wont catch you if you are going 10 over, but sometimes even 5 over, and I haven't seen too many motorists going even 5 over the speed limit there.

      September 8, 2012 at 8:28 am | Report abuse |
    • isthar

      No. Think about it for a bit more. If you really did an experiment, keep putting limits up, eventually people just find their own personal limit. I'm sure you've seen those that do not drive faster than 55. They feel uncomfortable. A combination of them and their vehicle (cheap crappy vehicles start to feel light at high speeds).

      85mph is probably closer to a reasonable speed *LIMIT*. There is a reason for that last word. The mockery of speed limits occurs because everybody realizes that it isn't much of a limit, nothing happens when exceeded. Imagine if a box says "weight limit 20lbs". You know what will happen if you put 60lbs in it? it will break. But a speed limit that says "55mph"... your car hits 60mph... and nothing.

      Honestly on straight highways /limits/ should probably be more along 100mph, with recommended 70-80mph, with minimas too.

      September 8, 2012 at 8:31 am | Report abuse |
  8. Brian

    What is everyone so worried about?
    I live in europe 9 months out of the year and routinely drive on various Autobahns in Germany at much higher speeds than 85 MPH. If the road is properly maintained, people maintain their vehicles and motorists pay attention this will not be an issue. People die at a higher rate on US roads because a drunk monkey possesses the knowledge and skills to pass the tests required for a US Drivers License. The average US drivers training is the problem, not 85 MPH. Teach people to drive. At least require a week or so intensive course, it would be a step in the right direction.

    September 8, 2012 at 4:49 am | Report abuse |
    • Valena

      I know right? its not like ev1 has to go that speed ppl just like now some drive still drive slow even here in Indiana when speed limit was raised to 70..yes some will abuse the speed like they abuse all laws..thats a givin..every state has their immatures..Ppl dont ever drive the regulated speed limit nowadays ne how...(oh yea except for elderly) lol..But yea ev1 has their opinions thats why these comments r here...some will always agree..n some will not, thats the way it is....

      September 8, 2012 at 5:24 am | Report abuse |
    • Anex

      You're joking right? I'm from Texas living in Europe (French-German border) and never in my life have I been frightened of the way people drive.
      You all may have your "training" (I don't call a driver's school only looking out for profit "training") but never have I come closer to death than spending 2 hours on German roads... autobahn not included. (The autobahn was scary for the speeds while riding with a European, but not as scary as the normal autoroutes.) In the US you are tested by police offers.

      September 8, 2012 at 6:32 am | Report abuse |
    • Tracy

      100% agreed.

      I too frequent Europe and drive there ... it's the LAZY, AMATEURISH, TEXTING average USA driver that is to blame.

      European drivers are far better ... and are treated like adults. And the driving test in UK/Europe is a nightmare.
      As it should be.

      September 8, 2012 at 7:20 am | Report abuse |
    • sciencegeek

      I've lived in Germany for 5 years and all Autobahns (freeways in English) have a suggested speed limit of 130km which is 80.778255 mph. Rarely are there accidence. The biggest difference I see here is that people follow the laws. No one is in the fast line UNLESS they are passing someone. Simple really. I get so frustrated when I come home to visit (AZ). There are times when I'm passing everyone else on the freeway while driving in the SLOW lane!! The slow people are all in the three "fast" lanes. Ridiculous. I'm all for the speed as long as the slow people stay where they belong.

      September 8, 2012 at 7:58 am | Report abuse |
  9. Erik

    All the hand wringers are hilarious. "The speed, the speed! Everyone will die! Big Government, give me life free of risk!" Please. The speed is not the problem. The clueless, distracted, tuned out, atrociously unskilled American driver is the problem. People routinely travel safely at 150mph in Germany and other places in Europe. If you're clueless, distracted, tuned out, and unskilled, get in the right lane...or on the right shoulder. Get out of the way of those of us who don't have cup holders and entertainment systems in our cars. You'll be plenty safe and so will we.

    September 8, 2012 at 5:59 am | Report abuse |
    • Mark

      Cell phones in my opinion. I have more issues with people clearly on the phone then anything! They either drive to slow or to fast and not pay attention at all. It's painfully obvious.

      September 8, 2012 at 6:23 am | Report abuse |
    • sciencegeek

      Only Germany has unlimited speeds in some areas. I've driven in ALL the western and eastern European countries since living in Germany. The suggested speed in all areas of Germany is 130km (81mph). It's not the speed that kills people but the distracted, idiots that kill people. It is against the law in Germany to be in the left lanes UNLESS you are passing someone. I believe it's the same at home but NObody pays attention to the laws.

      September 8, 2012 at 8:07 am | Report abuse |
  10. mohamed

    pay attention on the road, don't text while u driving,keep ur eyes on the road,dont drink and drive ple.....Bring the Europe system,if ur speed 100 miles for hour,send the speeding ticket to home,taxes give u freedom on the road if u abuse it you have to pay for it. listen guys some how america going to build the they economy,more collusion ,makes more money for body shop and insurance company and car dealer,more jobs and they going build new toll both,hahahah and if ur under 21 u cant drive 85 MPH HWAY sorry guys i dont mean that.common stop complaining move on just go for it i love the idea.

    September 8, 2012 at 6:06 am | Report abuse |
  11. Anex

    People have been going 85 on most highways for a long time now.. which does beg the argument that now people will drive faster than 85 when they were going 85 in a 70. In parts of west Texas the speed limit is 80 and I never saw anyone driving over that speed..

    I would like to think (hope) that people have common sense not to, but judging from the current state of things, (especially Texas politics) I guess that remains to be seen.

    September 8, 2012 at 6:29 am | Report abuse |
  12. musicdorian

    This proves, once again, that Texans have no common sense.

    September 8, 2012 at 6:41 am | Report abuse |
    • Educate yourself.

      What this proves is that you clearly like to reveal your ignorance by making blanket statements. Anyone that generalizes an entire group of people is the one with no sense. As so many other posters have stated, it is not the speed that is dangerous, it is the skill and attention level of the driver that creates a dangerous situation. You've clearly never been to Texas and we're glad to have you stay away.

      September 8, 2012 at 8:46 am | Report abuse |
  13. Shaka Zulu

    the last paragraph says it all: $100 million. always about the money. but I would love to take my challenger on that road.

    September 8, 2012 at 7:20 am | Report abuse |
    • Thomas

      Haha right? You can read the whole article but the truth is in the last few sentences. Show em the money.

      September 8, 2012 at 8:53 am | Report abuse |
  14. Left Lane Driver

    At that speed, it will still take way too long to drive across TX!

    September 8, 2012 at 7:41 am | Report abuse |
  15. Ronald Noe

    First of all, it does not go anywhere near Seguin, nor anywhere close to San Antonio! It merely goes around Austin, that's all! Who writes this stuff?

    September 8, 2012 at 7:44 am | Report abuse |
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