San Marcos Mercury | Local News from San Marcos and Hays County, Texas

TEXAS TRIBUNE PHOTO ILLUSTRATION by CHAD ELLIOTT AND TODD WISEMAN

by AMAN BATHEJA

Texas is set to get a new bragging right: the fastest speed limit in the country.

The Texas Department of Transportation has approved an 85 mph speed limit for an upcoming 40-mile stretch of Texas 130 from Austin to Seguin. Currently, no road in the country has a posted speed limit faster than 80 mph. An 85 mph designation would give the new toll road the fastest speed limit in the Western Hemisphere, according to some reports.

In 2011, the Legislature gave TxDOT the authority to grant an 85 mph speed limit to roads designed to accommodate that speed. Last week, following engineering and traffic studies conducted by TxDOT, the Transportation Commission authorized speed limits of up to 85 mph on the road.

The new stretch of Texas 130 (known officially as Segments 5 and 6) is being built by a private consortium led by Spanish-based toll road firm Cintra. The firm has spent $1.3 billion to design and build the road and collect the tolls on the road for 50 years, though TxDOT retains ownership of the road. Under TxDOT’s contract with the SH 130 Concession Company, the firm had to pay TxDOT an extra $67 million if the new road received an 80 mph speed limit. If the road received the coveted 85 mph speed limit, TxDOT’s bonus jumped to $100 million.

“The Texas Department of Transportation has determined that SH 130 Segments 5 and 6 may be safely traveled at 85 miles per hour,” Chris Lippincott, spokesman for the SH 130 Concession Company, said. “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 toll road is scheduled to open Nov. 11, but Lippincott has said the road may open sooner.

Since last year, the possibility that TxDOT might allow an 85 mph speed limits in the state has prompted concerns about safety.

“As the accidents pile up on 85 mph roads, so too will insurance claims,” David Snyder with the American Insurance Association wrote in a Fort Worth Star-Telegram editorial last year. “That will lead to increased insurance costs.”


AMAN BATHEJA reports for The Texas Tribune where this story was originally published. It is reprinted here through a news partnership between the Tribune and the San Marcos Mercury.

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10 thoughts on “TxDOT approves 85 mph limit for stretch of Texas 130 toll road

  1. There’s a fee all right. There’s the toll (of about 15 cents a mile), and then there’s an even higher price to pay.

    In the rush to privatize highways in this country, we see a foreign-owned firm pay handsome incentives to a state agency (TXDOT) in exchange for allowing a speed limit of 85 mph, to make that stretch of new tollway more marketable to consumers. Of course, on a practical basis, that effectively raises the working speed limit to about 90, since most folks figure they can run a few MPH over without much fear of getting pulled over.

    Meanwhile, TXDOT is now REDUCING the speed limit on the no-toll HWY 183 from 65 to 55 mph. http://www.reformandfreedom.org/2012-06-01-03-09-30/latest-news/86-public-private-partnerships/153-txdot-slows-free-routes-alongside-sh-130-tollway

    To recap: TXDOT raises the privately operated tollway’s speed limit, and lowers the existing speed limit on the “competing” public road.

    Guess who benefits? If you guessed the good people of Texas, then guess again.

  2. High speed limits make a lot of sense for toll roads like this one. The main purpose of the road is to bypass Austin traffic (which is terrible, btw), so it mainly goes through rural areas.

    If it was a toll road in a crowded city, it might not work as well. However, as long as they stay in the open country, I think it’s a great idea to have toll roads with high speed limits.

    – James from http://www.4autoinsurancequote.com

  3. James, I agree. And I’m not against driving fast. That’s not the issue.

    My point is that I don’t understand how if it’s in TXDOT’s hands to set the speed limit, how is it appropriate for Cintra to financially reward TXDOT more for setting the speed limit higher? Isn’t that a conflict of interest?

    Meanwhile, the speed limit on the toll-free public road is lowered.

    Tell me that doesn’t strike you as even the slightest bit smarmy.

  4. Tarl, Ben Wear called it “fishy” in his Statesman article. Fishy or smarmy, either way, it smells.

  5. Fatalities will increase on 85mph. Your seat belt will not save your life. Texas idiots don’t know how to drive fast. Pay now and die soon.

  6. Stats please?

    Of course not.

    You non-Texas idiots can’t cite anything.

    Go away now, and stay away later.

    “Despite its high speed limit, the 85-mph portion of Texas 130 hasn’t been particularly dangerous. TxDOT statistics show 51 accidents since the road opened. There have been two fatalities. Speed was a factor in four of the crashes. On a roughly parallel portion of I-35, there were 2,750 accidents, 13 of them involving fatalities.”

    http://reportingtexas.com/hogs-are-avoiding-85-mph-highway-now-but-so-are-drivers/

  7. Hah! There have been less crashes because there’s less traffic. Sure would like to know the stats on how many vehicles are on this road on an average day.

  8. Go get them, then.

    Then post them here.

    Post the accidents and fatalities per vehicle/mile traveled.

    Otherwise, the only data here wins.

    Ha!

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