Texas Opens The Fastest Highway In America
You can now crank your car up to 85 mph on State Highway 130 in Texas and not worry about getting a ticket. This 40-mile stretch of road that runs between Austin and San Antonio sports the highest speed limit in the nation. Speed doesn’t come free though, S.H. 130 is a toll road and a one-way trip costs $6.17.
Texas is no stranger to high speed limit roads. Many of its highways have posted limits of 75 or 80 mph. Speeds tend to dip to 55 to 65 mph around cities and towns.
S.H. 130 was built by Cintra-Zachry, a private road builder in conjunction with the Texas Department of Transportation. While Cintra-Zachry did not set the speed limit they did have a hand in getting the higher speed approved. Concession Co. who will be operating the toll road offered a one-time payment of $100 million to set the limit at 85 mph, that payment would drop to 67 million if the Texas Legislature decided on a limit of 80 mph or lower.
S.H. 130 was built because of congestion between Austin and San Antonio on Interstate 35. This road handles a lot of commuters and experts predict they will be more than happy to pay the $6.17 to avoid the traffic on 1-35.
While 85 mph seems fast, state and company officials point out that the road was designed for these kinds of speeds and testing has determined this to be an appropriate limit. The wide open spaces of Texas are the perfect testing ground for speed limits this fast.
Texas may not be alone in the high speed limit club for long. More states are turning to toll roads as federal money for highways dries up. A recent federal transportation bill increased the loans available to states building toll roads. Toll operators have found that the best way to lure drivers on to a toll road is to increase the speed limit.
Is it Safe?
There have been a number of concerned groups that feel 85 mph is just too fast and will result in increased accidents and deaths. They claim that drivers typically exceed the limit by 5 to 10 miles per hour which would have cars going almost 100 mph on the new road. While speed alone may not cause more crashes, the chances of survival at these speeds is greatly reduced.
The operators of the road have taken safety into account, adding electronic signs that alert drivers to the fact that the left lane is for passing only. They will also be monitoring traffic to see if Texas drivers can safely handle the increased speed.
The TXDOT used speed studies to determine the correct speed and stands by those numbers. Studies monitored traffic and determined at what speed 85 percent of drivers were traveling at or below. This number is referred to as the 85-percentile speed and limits are based on this number.
Safety experts and advocates for higher speed limits continue to argue over the safety of this road and only time will determine if high limits actually do result in more deaths.