The swirling force of Texas politics

House OKs 85 MPH Highway Bill

By Frank Heinz
|  Friday, Apr 8, 2011  |  Updated 10:50 AM CDT
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House OKs 85 MPH Highway Bill

Tom Croom/www.tomcroom.com

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The Texas House gave final approval to a bill that could increase the speed on some Texas highways to 85 mph Thursday.

House Bill 1201, and the similar Senate Bill 565, are part of larger transportation bills that aim to repeal the Trans-Texas Corridor. If put into law, they would allow TxDOT to still raise the speed limit on certain lanes or stretches of road to 85 mph -- an original provision of the TTC project for roads built under the program.

The increased limits could only be implemented following an engineering or traffic study that determines those roadways safe for that speed of travel. 

The measure by Brenham state Rep. Lois Kolkhorst, which won initial approval Wednesday, is part of a larger transportation bill. Final approval came Thursday.

Those that oppose the measure cite safety or fuel conservation as their primary concerns, however a quick look at some statistics from Montana may alleviate the concern over faster highway speeds.

From 1995-1999, Montana had no daytime speed limit on its interstates and highways and only invited drivers to use "reasonable and prudent" judgement when determining their speed.  When lawmakers later decided to once again enact speed limits, both fatal crashes and multiple-vehicle crashes went up, by as much as 111 percent, according to the National Motorist Association's using Montana DOT data.

The U.S. Department of Energy acknowledges that each vehicle reaches its optimal fuel efficiency at different speeds, but said that gas mileage typically decreases rapidly at speeds above 60 mph.  According to the DOE, for every 5 mph above 60 mph, drivers pay an additional $0.24 per gallon (based on a gallon of gas costing $3.52/gallon).

All that aside, if its turned into law don't look for those speeds limits to be in DFW -- they'll likely only be increased in West Texas where 500 miles of interstates and highways already have a posted speed limit of 80 mph.

Another bill being considered by the House Transportation Committee could bring speeds of 75 mph to highways closer to DFW and totally remove the lower nighttime limit.

If the limits are raised, they would be the highest in the nation and would go into effect Sept. 1.

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