On August 30, the Texas Transportation Commission voted to approve a speed limit of 85 miles per hour
on a 41-mile stretch of toll road linking Austin and San Antonio.
While most drivers welcome the new speed limit as a way of getting from point A to point B more expeditiously (at the cost of higher fuel consumption), critics fear it will increase fatal accidents, too.USA Today
quotes Russ Rader, spokesman for the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety, as saying, “The research is clear that when speed limits go up, fatalities go up.”
We’re fairly certain that other organizations could chime in with data proving that differentials in speed between the slowest and fastest drivers cause more accidents than higher speed limits alone, and huge differentials in speed exist on (free) interstate highways these days.
The fact that Texas opted to raise the speed limit on a toll road that complies to the latest safety standards shows that this was likely taken into consideration. While Texas State Highway 130 may be the fastest way to get from Austin to San Antonio, it isn’t the only way; in other words, nothing is forcing drivers to take the faster toll road.
Texas isn’t just using the speed limit for bragging rights, either. If the speed limit were at or below 80 miles per hour
, the toll road operator would owe the state of Texas a lump-sum payment of $67 million, or a percentage of profits generated by tolls. Raise the limit to 85, and the up front payment balloons to $100 million, or a higher percentage of toll revenue.
With another $33 million (or potentially more) on the table, it comes as no surprise that Texas approved the measure. We won’t be driving in the area any time soon, but we’ll admit it would be nice to complete a trip at a reasonable velocity, without constantly scanning the horizon for state troopers running speed enforcement.