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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soundoff (711 Responses)
  1. Dennis

    Hello community,
    I really do ask myself that for the past 5 years now since I've been to the U.S.

    Is it safe to drive only 85 mph?

    As the statistics show, there are less highway accidents on the German Autobahn compared to the U.S. highways, if you compare it seriously with all factors. We did that comparison at the university and figured out that there about 271% of the accidents more occuring on highways in the states than in Germany.

    Main reasons for that are simple.
    1. Drivers that drive less than 80 mph are driving so slow that they don't have to draw their full attention to driving on highways.

    2. The major gap in educating and skills of the driver. In the U.S. you can get fairly easy your drivers license. In other countries it is a far longer way and time you have to spent before you are allowed to drive.

    Of course there are also more differences. But these two major points are drawn by clear scientific data.

    I'm really looking forward to a different and evolving driving culture in the U.S. What do you guys think?

    September 7, 2012 at 1:33 pm | Report abuse | Reply
    • carpenterman123

      Good luck with people like Archyle acting like speed police.

      September 8, 2012 at 11:18 am | Report abuse |
  2. Tim

    Looking at that picture, it would appear someone screwed up the on-ramp. Or maybe that's the way they slow people down ;) Nothing deadly about an 85mph speed limit. Come drive on North America's busiest highway (401 across the top of Toronto) where we cruise along all day at that speed and higher. Except of course rush-hour, where we might hit 10 :) The highway's success and traffic volume will keep speeds slow for all you wimps.

    September 7, 2012 at 1:35 pm | Report abuse | Reply
    • Wes Scott

      You are looking at a very skewed perspective. The road changes elevation and the camera angle gives a misleading view of the length of that curve. That is an entrance ramp, not the highway itself, and it is expected that people will drive a little slower on an entrance ramp than on a highway.

      September 7, 2012 at 2:32 pm | Report abuse |
  3. explainist

    The CHP officers organization used to publish a monthly magazine, the Highway Patrolman. only reason people read it was for the accident reports. all of the truly gruesome, mangled car nobody could have survived in wrecks were 85 or over wrecks.

    Joe Average Public does not have the skills or reflexes to run at these speeds, and the rare exceptional driver who can run at these speeds is surrounded by Joe Average Public, and Bob Below Average Public.

    "amanda

    And by the way, DIFFERENTIAL in speed is what causes accidents. IE: morons trying to merge onto a 75 mph highway doing 40mph."

    We have an uphill on ramp 8 miles from my house. You can't see traffic on the freeway until you are on the freeway in anthing smaller than a big pickup. You have a second to determine if you can get into the right lane. In my opinion anybody too stupid to move left when they see an uphill off ramp ahead should be shot out of the saddle.

    September 7, 2012 at 1:39 pm | Report abuse | Reply
  4. Luigi

    "Safety is our top priority and tests have shown the designated speed is a safe one," – Well technically if safety is the top priority then the speed limit should be set at about 3 MPH.

    September 7, 2012 at 1:39 pm | Report abuse | Reply
    • Edie

      LOLToo true!

      September 7, 2012 at 1:45 pm | Report abuse |
  5. Jeff

    Good.

    Now lets get drivers training in line and only let people capable of driving on the roads.

    September 7, 2012 at 1:40 pm | Report abuse | Reply
    • ME

      Bingo. We can't say as a nation we're serious about traffic safety when drivers licenses are for life after a single test at 15-18 years of age.

      September 7, 2012 at 1:51 pm | Report abuse |
    • Wes Scott

      I believe that every person should be required to take a remedial driving course and be re-tested every 20 years until age 60, and then every 5 years thereafter. The problem is that there just simply are not enough state troopers available to do that much testing. At the very least remedial training could be required and those trainers could be certified to stipulate the qualifications for a driver to have a license renewed – and that should definitely include a required eye/vision test.

      September 7, 2012 at 3:25 pm | Report abuse |
  6. pgcounty

    Ha Ha Ha Ha...Yeah!!!! I've been driving 85 on the highways for years. This is nothing new. Ha Ha Ha Ha....

    September 7, 2012 at 1:40 pm | Report abuse | Reply
  7. lulu

    I see a lot of accidents in the future for this road.. I work for roadside assistence and I couldn't imgaine someone's tire blowing here. The wrecks would be awful.. pile ups for sure. Be safe guys!

    September 7, 2012 at 1:41 pm | Report abuse | Reply
    • Terry D.

      I can tell you there won't be very many accidents because traffic is very light on that road, probably because the tolls are too high. Since the state doesn't own the road, the private company has no compelling reason to lower tolls just to ease congestion on I-35, as the state would.

      September 8, 2012 at 5:41 pm | Report abuse |
  8. Johnson

    Wow – this is risky business. If the road design and engineering is anything like the roads in the DFW area, it will be mayhem on the highway! The DFW area has some of the worst road design I have ever seen in my life. This place sacrifices public safety for road design done on the cheap.

    September 7, 2012 at 1:53 pm | Report abuse | Reply
  9. Jon Tobino

    "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."

    Safety is clearly not the top priority here!

    September 7, 2012 at 1:53 pm | Report abuse | Reply
  10. Ron

    If the highway is build accordingly with WIDE lanes, curves and increase that allow long views – as in Germany – and people would stop passing on the right side, than 85 is not a problem at all. In Germany, the average driver on a free flowing highway runs between 85 and a 100 miles. And a lot of people go faster easily reaching 120 -130. I grew up there and I have to say that I feel safer on the highway there than here. Lanes here are too small and the right lane passing is a hazardous habit, although I appreciate it myself when on a four lane highway and everyone moves almost at the same speed. But with the vastness of the US and time spend in a car, it would be nice to able to do the same thing as in Germany!

    September 7, 2012 at 1:56 pm | Report abuse | Reply
    • Jeff

      If we start creating (or enforcing existing, where they are already written) laws about staying to the right except to pass, we eliminate passing on the right.

      LOT of people got hit with tix when Michigan passed the slow down or move over for stopped police cars law years back, and were quite upset over paying the fine, but everyone does it now. Outside of impared/distracted driving, its not too hard to get driving behaviors to change.

      September 7, 2012 at 3:14 pm | Report abuse |
  11. cog in the wheel

    I've read several articles about this change; they all ask the question, "Is it safe to set the speed limit this high?"

    I've not seen any analysis on gas consumption. The last I knew, automobiles used far more gas at higher speeds than slower speeds. Unless modern technology has reversed that statistic, will these drivers not be burning more gas? (not that conserving gas and oil is ever a concern :-)

    Anyone know for sure?

    September 7, 2012 at 1:58 pm | Report abuse | Reply
  12. michael

    My god can you imagine how much fuel you will be burning at this speed. I used a toll road in Oklahoma that was 80mph speed limit and was running just under 84mph I was getting 10 miles to the gallon in my truck that is rated at 21 at 65mph. I would be burning a half a tank a day on that toll road :\

    September 7, 2012 at 2:01 pm | Report abuse | Reply
    • nehumanuscrede

      Then you're driving a vehicle that isn't designed for those speeds. ( It's a truck, what do you expect ? )

      I have a 400+ HP Mustang, it gets 20-21 mpg regardless if I'm doing city or highway driving. 65 or 90 mph.
      I track my mpg at every single fill-up since I purchased the car. The mpg is always the same regardless.

      September 7, 2012 at 2:15 pm | Report abuse |
  13. Stop the congested sludge on American roadways

    I think 85 is fine. Many people are already driving this speed. 65 is way too slow on most highways...to be realistic. Look at Germany....no speed limits on most roadways....only suggested in many places and has limits during certain periods such as construction and known congestion areas. They have very few crashes and some are known to go as fast as 150mph+

    September 7, 2012 at 2:01 pm | Report abuse | Reply
  14. z2cents

    you mean 95. Now we need to ticket people coasting in the left lane.

    September 7, 2012 at 2:02 pm | Report abuse | Reply
  15. ed houston

    yeah 80-85 is all too common already in texas -on the open road that is. 90 ish is doable in west texas open roads. some drivers, those in a hurry, do the 80-85 in the city too.

    September 7, 2012 at 2:06 pm | Report abuse | Reply
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