Travelers will be able to set their cruise at 85 mph on a 41-mile stretch of toll road in Austin, according to an Associated Press article.
The Texas Legislature last year approved 85 mph limits for some new stretches of road. The strip of toll road running from Austin to Seguin, about 35 miles northeast of San Antonio, will be the first to allow that speed when it opens in November. The Texas Transportation Commission, which is appointed by Gov. Rick Perry, approved the 85 mph speed limit at a public meeting on Aug. 30, notes the AP.
The article also points out that Texas has a contract with the toll operator that means the state gets more money from the toll road operators in exchange for a higher speed limit. The state contract with the toll operator allows the state to collect a $67 million up-front cash payment or a percentage of the toll profits in the future if the speed limit is 80 mph or lower, the article notes. At 85 mph, the cash payment balloons to $100 million or a higher percentage of toll revenues.
Reactions to the increased speed limit are mixed, according to the article. Groups such as the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety fear it will lead to more crashes.
In a press release, the American Trucking Associations urged the Texas Transportation Commission to reverse its decision to allow vehicles to travel 85 mph on a privately-managed stretch of State Highway 130 linking Austin and San Antonio, and cautioned other states against following the Texas's example.
"At the end of the day, excessive speed is the greatest threat to highway safety," ATA President and CEO Bill Graves said. "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."
ATA has been a vocal advocate, not just for the use of technology to regulate maximum truck speeds at 65 mph, but for states to promote greater highway safety by adopting maximum speed limits of 65 mph for all vehicles.
"Higher speeds dramatically increase the risks of a catastrophic crash. On today's busy and congested highways, it is simply unfathomable that a state would allow drivers to put themselves and others at risk by increasing speed limits to such excessive heights," Graves said.
"The state's obvious attempt to generate more traffic and greater profit from tolls for private investors, at the public's expense, highlights the trade-offs associated with relying too much on the private sector to finance highways. I would hope that Texas will quickly see the error in its policy and reverse course."