85 MPH Speed Limit Adopted On Texas Highway
John Neumann for redOrbit.com – Your Universe Online
Your leisurely country drive is about to get a bit more harried. The Lone Star state will be allowing a 41-mile stretch of toll way between San Antonio and state capitol Austin to be posted with a speed limit of 85 mph.
“I would love it,” Austin resident Alan Guckian said. “Sometimes it’s fun to just open it up.”
Some residents however are asking if safety is taking a backseat. “The research is clear that when speed limits go up, fatalities go up,” said Russ Rader, a spokesman for the nonprofit Insurance Institute for Highway Safety. Higher speed limits get people to their destinations faster, “but the trade-off is more crashes and more highway deaths.”
A 2009 report in the American Journal of Public Health studied traffic fatalities in the US from 1995 to 2005 and found that more than 12,500 deaths were attributable to increases in speed limits on all kinds of roads, writes Jim Vertuno for Associated Press.
Rural highways showed a 9.1 percent increase in fatalities on roads where speed limits were raised, the study continued, but specific numbers in those instances were not cited.
The majority of US highways max out at 75 mph, with no roads in the country without a posted speed limit but some highways in rural West Texas and Utah have 80 mph speed limits.
Texas resident Steve Marcy, during his daily commute from the Austin area to his job in San Antonio, sometimes uses a section of toll road with a speed limit of 80 mph speed. Marcy said he’d be comfortable increasing that another 5 mph but would be concerned about others driving vehicles that are not in good condition. “A tire blowout (at 85 mph) could be a big hazard.”
Chris Lippincott, spokesman for SH 130 Concession Co. that is building the toll road, said the company is committed to operating a safe highway. “On any road, drivers hold the key to safety based on traffic, travel conditions and the capabilities of their own vehicles,” Lippincott said.
The Texas Transportation Commission, which is appointed by Gov. Rick Perry, approved the 85 mph speed limit at a public meeting on Aug. 30 but commissioners would not comment on their decision.
Agency officials had previously said they would study the toll road’s topography, the speeds that most drivers were reaching, and the safety of access points and cross sections before approving the higher speed limit. “Safety is our top priority and tests have shown the designated speed is a safe one,” Beyer said.
Toll prices have not yet been set for the new section. Marcy predicted the higher speed limit would attract new drivers, but said most may not think it’s worth paying the tolls.
“For most people I talk to, it’s a cost issue,” Marcy said.