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. Larry Barnes

    I wonder who the first person will be who is stopped for speeding on this road.

    September 7, 2012 at 3:19 pm | Report abuse | Reply
    • Jack

      Hopefully the first person to be stopped is the dolt going to SLOW in the passing lane.

      September 7, 2012 at 3:23 pm | Report abuse |
  2. Tamm

    Yeah 85 is kinda too fast, but there won't be too many driving on it because you gotta pay to drive on it and most people are just trying to keep gas in their vehicles. I have drove on some of what is completed and there were not as many cars as you would think. This highway is kinda out of the way for most, so I guess we just gotta see what happens. Been driving in Austin for too long I've seen it grow from cool little city to a monsterous mess when it comes to traffic, too many darn people on the road now, that of course are in a rush and like to speed. Drive save people, be courteous and defensive.

    September 7, 2012 at 3:19 pm | Report abuse | Reply
  3. Sue

    I see nothing wrong with this......it's far enough outside the big city. I wish we could get the speed limit lowered within the bigger cities. That's where all the idiot drivers injure others on the road. ChiTownArt is right.....I'm from SA and have driven in at least 10 other states. TX drivers are the most aggressive and dangerous. Esp. in SA.

    September 7, 2012 at 3:21 pm | Report abuse | Reply
    • Brent Jatko

      I still think it's worse in ATL. Longer commute distances and higher average speeds.

      September 7, 2012 at 5:59 pm | Report abuse |
  4. That Guy over there

    Texas land of the free!

    September 7, 2012 at 3:26 pm | Report abuse | Reply
    • BigSmitty

      Here's a news flash... EVERYBODY drives 85 in Texas, this is just the first road where it's actually legal...

      September 7, 2012 at 3:59 pm | Report abuse |
  5. dave

    Remember how they cried that blood would pour from the highways after the 55mph limit was removed? Same whiers that cry about guns, they simply want a nanny state for everyone.

    September 7, 2012 at 3:27 pm | Report abuse | Reply
    • Libby

      Well, if the 85mph speed limit is considered safe, why not make ALL the highways 85mph. Why even have a speed limit. Here's why, it was raised to 85mph due to MONEY! MONEY! MONEY!

      September 7, 2012 at 3:56 pm | Report abuse |
  6. Jack

    I have a need for speed, so get out of my way!

    September 7, 2012 at 3:28 pm | Report abuse | Reply
  7. danmac

    The major problem or safety risk with all multi lane highways is the drivers who refuse to obey and the police who refuse to enforce SLOWER TRAFFIC KEEP RIGHT.

    September 7, 2012 at 3:34 pm | Report abuse | Reply
  8. Johnny Orlando

    I go 85 anyway.

    September 7, 2012 at 3:35 pm | Report abuse | Reply
  9. Timothy

    Few americans drive well enough to handle a vehicle at 85 mph. And few cars are designed for sustained 80+ mph speeds as they, for the most part don't handle well at high speeds. Texas officials are nuts!

    September 7, 2012 at 3:37 pm | Report abuse | Reply
    • Brian

      Most modern *cars* will be fine at 80+ mph all day. But the trucks and SUV's, particularly in the hands of drivers who are often incompetent and distracted...it's these vehicles for which handling at speed should be a concern. I agree that Texas officials are nuts, though. Texan drivers are horrible.

      September 7, 2012 at 6:02 pm | Report abuse |
  10. Rhastuss

    The biggest danger will be poor people and stupid people who dive 85MPH on temporary spares designed to go less than 50MPH..

    September 7, 2012 at 3:38 pm | Report abuse | Reply
    • RustyHinges8

      Do you really think there are that many rednecks in Texas?

      September 7, 2012 at 4:03 pm | Report abuse |
    • Brian

      @RustyHinges8, I hope you're being sarcastic.

      September 7, 2012 at 6:04 pm | Report abuse |
  11. Ute Man

    This just in the speed limit on I-15 in Utah will be changed to 86 MPH this Fall

    September 7, 2012 at 3:40 pm | Report abuse | Reply
  12. Andrey

    Higher speeds may seem more dangerous at a glance, but it simply not true for a couple of reasons. First off, modern automotive technology has come a long way from the 50s where cars had park bench seats and setbelts were considered optional.

    More importantly, when people are allowed to travel at a speed the vast majority of drivers consider safe and reasonable, people tend to pay a lot more attention to their driving and what's going on around them. People who are not as comfortable going at 85 should simply keep to the right.

    September 7, 2012 at 3:42 pm | Report abuse | Reply
  13. lucky18

    Bring out the body bags!

    September 7, 2012 at 3:43 pm | Report abuse | Reply
  14. Michael

    Now every lane is the fast lane!

    September 7, 2012 at 3:43 pm | Report abuse | Reply
  15. RustyHinges8

    Texans think the state is getting too crowded, especially around Dallas. Might as well jack up that speed, and get rid of a few! Get those texting fools while they’re at it! Tow trucks set on the shoulders and curves like buzzards…..waiting. You won’t see a trooper on a toll way, unless he’s headed home. They have exits and exchanges called “FLY-OVERS”, because they’re so high up in the air….it’s like you’re flying. Texans like those, because that’s what happens to tourists….they go FLY’IN.

    September 7, 2012 at 3:51 pm | Report abuse | Reply
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