Nation’s Fastest Highway Speed Limit
Motorists in South Texas could soon drive 85 miles per hour without breaking the speed limit. The Texas Department of Transportation pursued a higher speed limit for the new portion of State Highway 130 from Austin to Seguin, after engineering tests approved the safety of the speed limit, in an effort to divert drivers away from more congested highways. If enacted, it will become the nation’s highest speed limit.
High Speed Risk and Reward
Truck drivers may steer clear of the new high-speed road, due to concerns of safety and because speeds over 65 mph reduce a trucks fuel efficiency. Some trucking companies equip trucks with technology to prevent them from traveling too fast. According to Sean McNally with the American Trucking Association, “A truck going 75 [mph] uses 27 percent more fuel than one going 65.”
TxDOT is monitoring current driving speeds on the highway and assessing its terrain. It is also trying to determine if drivers can safely access the roadway with vehicles moving at 85 mph. State transportation officials must approve the change before it goes into effect.
The state’s reason for raising the limit is to reduce traffic congestion by offering multiple routes. This would allow motorists to reach their destinations sooner and spend less time behind the wheel. For fast vehicles that can attain such speeds, the higher limit would decrease driving time by approximately two minutes.
Legislation and Reaction
Last year, the state legislature increased the top speed limit to 85 mph. However, it restricted the application of this limit to new roadways, according to CBS. The Longview News-Journal reported in September that legislators also passed a bill to remove special speed limits for trucks and nighttime drivers.
Some organizations, insurance companies and officials have expressed concern about the proposed change. A representative from the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety recently commented on the issue, according to the Houston Chronicle. He warned that researchers had linked high speed limits to additional traffic fatalities.
Higher speeds also harm fuel economy and make it more difficult for cars and trucks to stop. Vehicles use as much as 19 percent more fuel when the speed rises from 65 to 75 mph, according to Consumer Reports. This also increases air pollution. CSGNetwork.com indicates that the stopping distance for a car traveling at 85 mph is 532 feet.
The U.S. doesn’t have an autobahn, but some highways do maintain very high speed limits. In 2009, the Deseret News reported that the limit for portions of Interstate 15 in Utah was raised to 80 mph. Route 79 in Arizona has a maximum speed of 75 mph. However, cars frequently exceed this limit by 12-14 mph, according to Yahoo Autos.
The new toll road, a 41-mile stretch running from Austin to Seguin, is scheduled to open in November. The American Trucking Association requested that the Texas Transportation Commission reverse its decision favoring a maximum 65 mph speed limit for all highways.