AASHTO Journal, 14 September 2012
The Texas Transportation Commission approved a measure to allow vehicles to travel at 85 mph on 40 miles of toll road Texas 130, making it the fastest stretch of highway in the country.
The route, which stretches from Austin to Seguin, sought the higher speed limit in order to reduce congestion on roads in Austin and San Antonio. The state legislature last year gave Texas Department of Transportation authority to allow the 85 mph speed limit on roadways that are able to accommodate that kind of speed. TxDOT tested SH 130 and found that the higher speed would work on the roadway. This particular route’s 85 mph designation came during a public hearing on Aug. 30 and is expected to take effect for drivers in November.
The stretch of Texas 130 to utilize the 85 mph speed limit is currently still under construction by toll road firm Cintra. Cintra has spent $1.3 billion to design and build the road in exchange for collecting the tolls on the road for the next 50 years, though TxDOT will still own the road. TxDOT was on tap to receive a $67 million bonus from the firm if the new stretch of road obtained a speed limit of 80 mph, or a $100 million bonus if the roadway was designated at 85 mph.
The move is sparking controversy with some, mainly citing safety concerns.
“At the end of the day, excessive speed is the greatest threat to highway safety,” said American Trucking Associations President and CEO Bill Graves in a statement. “And by giving motorists carte blanche to put the pedal to the metal, Texas is raising the risk of more crashes, as well as more severe crashes.”
However, TxDOT maintains the roadway is safe for an 85 mph speed limit designation.
“Safety is our top priority and tests have shown the designated speed is a safe one,” TxDOT spokesman Mark Cross told the Texas Tribune. “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 alternative route for traveling through our great state.”