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Texas opens 85-mph highway near Austin

The privately funded toll road is both controversial and hugely appealing to commuters.

By Clifford Atiyeh Oct 24, 2012 10:39AM
Texas opened the toll gates today on a new stretch of highway with the nation's highest-ever speed limits, a controversial move that has sparked safety concerns as it promises to shorten commutes.

The 85-mph speed limit on this 41-mile segment extends a portion of state highway that already allows 80 mph just outside Austin. The new $1.3 billion road -- entirely financed and built by a private Spanish company, Cintra -- travels farther south through more rural towns between Austin and San Antonio.

The state maintains that 85 mph is a safe limit and that it stands to benefit taxpayers from the privatized road. Cintra, which has a 50-year contract to maintain the highway, will pay the Texas Department of Transportation $100 million in toll revenue sharing, an amount that was determined based on the highway's maximum speed limit. While regular drivers will pay roughly $6.17 to drive the extension's entire length, truckers -- some of whom are concerned that 85-mph speeds would be dangerous -- will need to cough up four times that amount. The tolls don't go into effect until Nov. 11.

High speeds aren't the only concern. Local towns on Route 183, a parallel route off the highway, criticized the state for lowering the route's speed limit from 65 mph to 55 mph in an apparent effort to encourage drivers to use the faster toll road. That decision is under appeal. The state's ties with Cintra have also come under fire since 2005, when the company was selected to build the Trans-Texas Corridor, a massive highway project that would have constructed 4,000 miles of toll roads. It was later rejected by the federal government.

Concerns aside, Texas -- like many other states in the Southwest and rural North that have 75-mph and 80-mph limits -- hasn't seen major highway problems with considerably higher speeds. With the state's warmer climates, straighter roads and less-populated areas, 85 could easily feel like 65 --- but only if drivers are smart enough to maintain their cars and refrain from distraction, which we know isn't easy.
231Comments
Oct 24, 2012 12:06PM
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Well maybe now the state school system will get some of its money back.

In the mean time drivers in TX routinely go 80-85 anyway, especially on the 70 mph highways.  Now 90-100 will be the norm on this toll rode and most passenger vehicles are not set up to safely endure such an impact.

Oct 24, 2012 12:06PM
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Doesn't seem like a big deal.But not a good place if you like going to slow!
Oct 24, 2012 12:06PM
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A red state outsourcing to a foreign company all so they can make even less money... I know what will help our economy, let us send even more money out of the country. Good work morons, this is your great plan for America? To sell us all out so that you can skim off the top? As long as you gets yours and do not have to pay for any of the people you screwed over by sending our money out of the country. Some red blooded Americans you a-holes are.
Oct 24, 2012 12:05PM
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Let's hope that enough Romney supporters crash into each other and are hospitalized through the election where they're unable to vote!
Oct 24, 2012 12:05PM
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the higher the speed, the higher the chance you will die if  you lose control of your car, or crash.  Common Sense.
Oct 24, 2012 12:04PM
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wonder how long it will beopen before they have too many deaths on it. Are there going to be any "Speed Traps?"
Oct 24, 2012 12:04PM
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In California 85-90 m.p.h. is common every day on interstates 99 or 5, every day. At least Texas is making money of it without **** ticketing, but why did a Spanish Company do this ? why not an American Company, more of our crappy laws from big brother.
Oct 24, 2012 12:03PM
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pffft i drive that during Chicago rush hour -
Oct 24, 2012 12:02PM
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With all the high-performance cars available these days, it's nice that there's at least one road where you can get them out of second gear.  Sure hope they enforce a minimum speed of at least 75 mph on this road.
Oct 24, 2012 12:01PM
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Sounds great! Hopefully this will catch on throughout the Lone Star State. Since the chance of dying in an auto accident doubles with every 10 mph increase in speed, the Texans will kill themselves off.
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