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. Dennis

    Sure have a lot of transportation/highway safety experts here.

    September 8, 2012 at 3:10 pm | Report abuse |
  2. Raider

    Oh settle down, most people drive around that speed already, it's just legal now. It's the people who aren't driving at the speed of the other drivers that cause the problems.

    September 8, 2012 at 3:13 pm | Report abuse |
  3. Smurfeater

    Hmm 85 for one stretch of a toll road, and 60 everywhere else. I never understood Texas' low speed limits through vasts wastelands of nothingness. Could it be Texas is evolving? Amazing.

    September 8, 2012 at 3:18 pm | Report abuse |
  4. sparky

    Most incompetent spam ever.

    September 8, 2012 at 3:29 pm | Report abuse |
  5. Dicazi

    I've driven in Michigan. Even though the highest legal speed is 70 mph, I've seen people driving up to 85. Even back in the 80s, when the limit was still 55 mph, I had to get my dad's old station wagon up to 80 once, just to get out of the way of cars going faster.

    September 8, 2012 at 3:30 pm | Report abuse |
  6. John

    I live in Houston and have probably driven every stretch of mile from Orange, Texas to El Paso to Mc Allen to Amarillo. It's a huge state and almost no one drives the posted speed limits anywhere. Just get on IH-20 from Houston to San Antonio and 99 percent of the drivers will leave you in the dust if you're doing 70. And if you get west of San Antonio, it's five hundred miles or so to the New Mexico border with nothing in between. So you might as well drive 85 or 90 because there is nothing to stop you but a radar gun. This new speed limit makes sense, only because it just legalized what everyone is already doing anyway.

    September 8, 2012 at 3:31 pm | Report abuse |
  7. BIFF

    It is progress but the Germans are still laughing at the USA

    September 8, 2012 at 3:33 pm | Report abuse |
  8. Softship

    From the country where there are long stretches of highways without any speedlimits – although almost half the mileage driven in Germany is driven on the Autobahsn, only a fraction if the accidents and fatalities happen there. And, when the accidents do happen on the Autobahn, the chances are very good that they'll occur in stretches where there IS a speed limit.

    I regularly drive 130 mph (210 kmph) and feel perfecty safe. And when I'm in a hurry, I drive faster. I've been doing fast driving over 400 miles / week for about 24 years ... and I'm still alive to tell the story. So fast driving can't be all that bad.

    September 8, 2012 at 3:41 pm | Report abuse |
    • LFA001

      Correct, but then you surely have a decent european car which can safely do fast driving, when I see those ugly american gas guzzling contraptions (and their "drivers"...) I cannot imagine that you would drive fast in those... I sure as hell would NOT ! Sorry USA but that is a fact... Start flaming as if I care, but see the numerous YouTube's first...

      September 8, 2012 at 4:10 pm | Report abuse |
  9. fastball

    There's nothing wrong with an 85 mph speed limit on a nice decent roadway......PROVIDED YOU KNOW HOW TO DRIVE!
    I've seen hundreds of idiot drivers in North American traffic that don't signal, they cut in and out, switch from lane to lane, tailgate, talking or texting on their cell phone, messing about and doing everything else OTHER than paying attention to the road. At 85mph, there is NO margin for error. Put the stuff down and pay attention.

    September 8, 2012 at 3:50 pm | Report abuse |
    • Randall

      Wow ... how do you know that they are doing all of this inside the vehicle if YOU are paying attention to the road?

      September 8, 2012 at 4:23 pm | Report abuse |
  10. Marine57

    In an accident, higher speeds kill more easily ... on the ground or in the air falling to the ground.
    An accident in a J-3 Cub at 30 MPH is easier to survive than in an airliner coming across the fence at 140 MPH.
    An accident at 30 MPH in the city in which a car blows a tire and goes into the ditch is more survivable than a car going 85 MPH that blows a tire and goes into the ditch ... because the car will most likely roll – again and again, coming apart in pieces.
    All of this is merely the natural laws of physics (I'm a retired Engineer) and SHOULD be common sense.
    However, speed is exciting and people love excitement (roller-coasters and stunt flying).
    If the car is in good shape due to diligent maintenance and the tires are on the new side with plenty of traction rated for speed, and the driver is time and distance experienced, things might go well most of the time.

    September 8, 2012 at 3:57 pm | Report abuse |
    • BldrRepublican

      Well, as a retired engineer, you should realize that there is more to the story than just 30mph vs 85mph kinetic energies, and that the whole equation is stoichiometric – for instance, at 30mph the vehicle is "in use" nearly 3 times longer vs at 85mph. Because of this, the window of opportunity for something catastrophic to happen is far shorter at 85mph.

      September 8, 2012 at 5:51 pm | Report abuse |
    • Jared

      I love this lame attempt to be ominous. "might go well most of the time"
      i live in NJ, the speed limit is 55, even 45 these days on the GSP, a narrow and winding road. Driving a modern car, this can easily be navigated through heavy congestion at 90mph. Many motorists routinely travel in excess of 100 mph, the main danger comes into play when drivers who will literally pass out from boredom on a long drive at 45 must go around other motorists who cant understand the large signs that say keep right except to pass!

      then again, there are motorists out there that idiot woman doing 120 in the suv with the pedal stuck and unable to figure out how to turn the car off or change gears =p =p =p

      September 8, 2012 at 5:54 pm | Report abuse |
  11. Frank

    People of the United States of America,
    I lived in Dallas for 5 years,they do everyhing BIG in TX so why not pump up the speed limit.
    When i lived there, Gas was cheap, it's probably cheaper in TX today than anywhere else in the country

    September 8, 2012 at 4:02 pm | Report abuse |
  12. albert

    If I was in texas I would drive faster than that to get out

    September 8, 2012 at 4:13 pm | Report abuse |
    • Bud

      What a petty comment.

      September 8, 2012 at 5:12 pm | Report abuse |
    • Greg

      Hilarious!

      September 8, 2012 at 8:27 pm | Report abuse |
  13. brad1001

    They pretty much drive that fast there anyway .. make it so

    September 8, 2012 at 4:30 pm | Report abuse |
  14. Busted

    I don't understand how it's not corruption for a private company to pay a government money to relax its laws. The 85 speed limit will be tested and to each their own, but paying the government to change laws is odd. What's next? If you pay the government a duty you can sell crack.

    September 8, 2012 at 4:32 pm | Report abuse |
    • crazycatman

      The reason they can do it is because the corporations ARE the government. (Google "Corporate State") The purpose of government in modern-day America is to pass laws and fight wars that protect corporate profit, and to provide services that the corporations can't provide at a profit.

      September 8, 2012 at 6:53 pm | Report abuse |
  15. Henry J Smith

    Sure hope they have a "minimum" speed level or there could be some serious rear enders!!

    September 8, 2012 at 5:07 pm | Report abuse |
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