There’s stretch of highway between Austin and San Antonio that will soon have a speed limit of 85mph. This privately managed portion of State Highway 130 is set to open November 11th in a move that has become highly controversial.
The ATA has come out extremely vocally against the new speed limit, saying that “At the end of the day, excessive speed is the greatest threat to highway safety… 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.” The ATA has previously come out in support of a maximum speed limit of 65mph for trucks on roadways nationwide, regardless of whether the marked limit is higher.
“Higher speeds dramatically increase the risks of a catastrophic crash,” said Bill Graves, ATA president & CEO. “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.”
The Texas Department of Transportation hopes that it will drive traffic away from highly congested local roadways, but that may not be the only reason for the speed hike. The toll road is being built by SH 130 Concession Co., a joint venture of Spanish toll operator Cintra and Texas-based Zachry American Infrastructure. The U.S. Department of transportation has awarded a federal loan of $430 million to help build the road, and some of it may be going straight to the state of Texas.
If the agency had set the speed limit at 80mph, they would have paid the state $67 million in toll proceeds as part of the 50-year agreement that’s worth $1.3 billion. However, by allowing the speed limit to be raised to 85mph, the Texas DOT will get an inflated kick-back of $100 million.
Despite the concerns voiced by watchdog groups, citizens, and the ATA, Texas DOT spokesman Mark Cross assures us that the new highway will be perfectly safe.
“State Highway 130, including Segments 5 and 6, were designed and tested for high-speed travel,” he says. “Safety is our top priority and tests have shown the designated speed is a safe one. 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 alternate route for traveling through our great state.”
Only time will tell if the ATA is right in voicing their concerns, or if the Texas DOT has thrown a winning pitch, but in the mean time, anyone making the drive between Austin and San Antonio can feel what it’s like to (legally) put the pedal to the metal and see the world whip by at 85mph.
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