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,‚ÄĚ 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. walter

    WOW I'm in the Army in Germany and love to drive fast. Yeah I started driving in America when I was 16, joined when I was 23 stationed here 2X 1X in America. After getting back to the states seeing how slow it is there please. Be a safe driver, and always look out for the other guy/gal and you will be ok. All you shook ppl who say "Oh no it's not good. ppl will abuse and kill other ppl." Well I say act like you got a pair and come to Germany get on the autobahn stay in the right lane and watch as grandma and grandpa fly by you 100+. Then tell me how you feel :)

    September 8, 2012 at 7:59 am | Report abuse |
    • sciencegeek

      Exactly.

      September 8, 2012 at 8:10 am | Report abuse |
  2. ELH

    I love to drive fast. However, not enough to induce me to visit or move to Texas (its full of Texicans).

    BYW, 85 is not 'fast.' Autos on I80 in Nebraska regularly cruise at 80+. I have been known to trundle along in the low triple digit region from time to time. I had my VW GTI clicking at 140 on I76 between Big Springs NE and Sterling CO last October. This stretch of road is nearly deserted most of the time and it is one of the most boring, misbegotten hunks of highway in the nation. Driving the 70 MPH limit puts you into a mind-numbing stupor–you need the speed to keep the adrenaline level up.

    September 8, 2012 at 8:18 am | Report abuse |
  3. magnus

    They should make it 75. No need to go that high.

    September 8, 2012 at 8:44 am | Report abuse |
  4. stevie

    The speed limit on I-10 in West Texas (between El Paso and San Antonio) is already 80mph along some stretches. On highway 90 between Del Rio and Sanderson (about 100 or so miles) the speed limit is 75. So why is this a big deal?

    September 8, 2012 at 8:46 am | Report abuse |
  5. tsoho

    When Montana had a "reasonable and prudent" speed limit rather than a posted limit, most drivers settled into the 75-85mph range. Of course there were the exceptions to that with some drivers doing 100 + mph, but you will always have those drivers even with a posted limit of 55. I doubt that most drivers on the 85 mph stretch will go much faster than 85.

    My personal opinion – We should get rid of the posted limit on most roads and replace it with a more general "flow of traffic" rule where you give a ticket only to the driver who is trying to drive significantly faster than the other drivers on that road.

    September 8, 2012 at 8:48 am | Report abuse |
  6. Troy

    Great idea Texas. What could possibly go wrong?

    September 8, 2012 at 9:16 am | Report abuse |
    • Tr1Xen

      Not a lot actually. Ever driven on the Autobahn in Germany?

      September 8, 2012 at 10:33 am | Report abuse |
    • Chris R

      i have. i also know that you can't get a drivers license out of a gumball machine in germany. there, and in much of europe, you often take a year of lessons (at your own expense) before taking the exam.

      September 8, 2012 at 10:43 am | Report abuse |
    • Dustin

      The problem isn't the speed limit, it's the drivers. Truly, the worst drivers I've ever seen in this country have been here in Texas.

      September 8, 2012 at 11:23 am | Report abuse |
  7. mouse

    how many more 'public roads' will become 'private tollways'?

    September 8, 2012 at 9:23 am | Report abuse |
    • Fladabosco

      For profit prisons, for profit roads. Glad I don't pay much taxes (yeah, right) to pay for roads and prisons already, The government shouldn't be in the business of making money from us.

      September 8, 2012 at 10:10 am | Report abuse |
    • BiggerLifter

      Not enough.

      September 8, 2012 at 10:48 am | Report abuse |
    • Ding McDougal

      In Texas there is NO state income tax. Therefore the state government is always looking for money....

      September 8, 2012 at 11:36 am | Report abuse |
  8. Roberto

    A Texas driver's last words: "Hey y'all! Watch this!"

    September 8, 2012 at 9:34 am | Report abuse |
    • me

      Actually, I think it goes: "Hold my beer and watch this!!"

      September 8, 2012 at 10:42 am | Report abuse |
    • High Speed Texan

      Nah, actually we say "you hold the barrel while I pull the trigger with this hand, sip my beer with the other hand and I'll steer with my knees" – at 100 MPH...85 is for woosy's – Yeee haaa

      September 8, 2012 at 11:42 am | Report abuse |
  9. eldono

    This is no big thing. You want fast? Then just go drive I-15 from Barstow east to the Nevada State Line on a Friday. Its a beautiful road in the eastern Mojave as the cars in the fast lane are hell bent for Vegas at close to Warp 7.

    September 8, 2012 at 9:45 am | Report abuse |
  10. Alkebu

    Big whoop a whole twenty miles per hour faster... now how about upgrading the vehicles to handle the impacts going that fast. For that manner how about a little extra training for the drivers so they don't increase the accident and incident rates. Yepper a well thought out plan all round on this one.

    September 8, 2012 at 9:47 am | Report abuse |
    • Marty

      Agreed, also if you don't like it then obviously you shouldn't be driving on it. You clearly cannot handle the speed and your vehicle and can be classified as one of "those" people you often are annoyed of on the highways anyways!

      September 8, 2012 at 11:42 am | Report abuse |
  11. djak

    A few weeks ago I was traveling and had to drive from the eastern border of Texas to my home in El Paso. The speed limit was 80, and I stayed between 80 and 85 the whole way on I-20 and I-10. As a result, I had to stop for gas twice as often as I had in the past driving at slower speeds. I decided Texas just wants people to fill up their gas tanks more, as the state collects all the tax revenue on gasoline.

    September 8, 2012 at 9:55 am | Report abuse |
    • Bob

      If you have to fill up your car "twice as often" by driving 10mph faster than you usually do, then there is something seriously wrong with your car bro. Either that or your "twice as often" is a bit (meaning huge) exaggeration.

      September 8, 2012 at 10:15 am | Report abuse |
    • debbie

      It's true that you get less fuel mileage going faster, however people are driving 85-90 anyway. Might as well just let the cops clean up the accident mess rather than try to stop the speeders – sounds like a good plan Texas

      September 8, 2012 at 10:29 am | Report abuse |
    • corey

      Dude – it's a speed 'limit', not a minimum requirement – AND you chose to even drive faster than the limit! If you don't like driving that fast / or your exaggerated fuel consumption, slow down!

      September 8, 2012 at 10:39 am | Report abuse |
    • Chris R

      bob. wind resistance increases as a square of the speed. so going twice as fast incurs 4x as much wind resistance. likewise driving that fast usually means you are pushing the engine out of its peak performance/efficiency band. roling resistance from the tires is more of an issue, etc etc etc. twice as often sounds like an exaggeration but probably not by a huge amount.

      September 8, 2012 at 10:47 am | Report abuse |
  12. dazzle ©

    A lot of folks are blowing off steam on this thread. My question is do they have speed cameras on this stretch of road?

    September 8, 2012 at 10:00 am | Report abuse |
    • banasy¬©

      What they need are signs that says "left lane for passing only" and "slower traffic right lanes" to prevent left lane hogs and tailgaters.
      I don't necessarily think this is a bad thing for long stretches of roads...but I wouldn't feel comfortable driving that fast, so obviously I would be in the right hand lane...

      September 8, 2012 at 10:29 am | Report abuse |
    • banasy¬©

      80 is about my limit...

      September 8, 2012 at 10:33 am | Report abuse |
  13. Fladabosco

    You have to go 85 in Texas. How else you gonna outpace the dinosaurs that are chasing you?

    September 8, 2012 at 10:11 am | Report abuse |
    • BiggerLifter

      or the republicans?

      September 8, 2012 at 10:50 am | Report abuse |
  14. Bob

    This is not a big deal. Where I live the speed limit on the interstate is 75.. everyone drives at least 85. As long as the speed limit is enforced at 85 (maybe using cameras..etc.) I think this is a great idea.

    September 8, 2012 at 10:13 am | Report abuse |
  15. sparky

    Big deal. I already drive 85 whenever I feel the need, which is rarely. If I go on this road, it's not like I'm going to start driving even faster.

    If anything, a higher speed limit implies a higher lower-speed limit - i.e., you can't drive slower than 65, for example. THAT is a problem, since there are a lot of old and stupid people who can't handle it.

    Make the rules more like Germany: Drive however fast you like, but GET THE H*LL OUT OF THE WAY when someone comes up behind you.

    Too many people park themselves in the high-speed lane, blocking traffic for everyone else.

    September 8, 2012 at 10:21 am | Report abuse |
    • banasy¬©

      That has been my point all along. Thank you.

      September 8, 2012 at 10:40 am | Report abuse |
    • Chris R

      id be like that as long as you make the rules *like* germany. drivers exams are tough and require real training before they put you behind several tons of steel, cars are built for it by meeting real safety standards, driving is thought of as a privileged and not a right, you have enough common sense to know how you much speed you can handle, etc etc etc...

      September 8, 2012 at 10:51 am | Report abuse |
    • BiggerLifter

      Agreed. Get off yer cell phones, pay attention and stop blocking the flow of traffic in the left lane.

      September 8, 2012 at 10:52 am | Report abuse |
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