Speed Limits Increasing on North Texas Highways

The next time you hit the road, you may notice speed limits on North Texas highways have increased.

In Arlington, for example, new signs were installed this week along I-20, raising the speed limit from 60 miles per hour to 70 miles per hour. That change came much to the surprise of some drivers.

"At first, I didn't even notice the speed limit was raised," said Tim Thurston, who lives in Arlington.

Back in 2001, the EPA told North Texas it needed to double down on vehicle emissions to improve air quality. In response, TxDOT lowered speed limits on area highways in hopes of bringing those levels down.

In the 14 years since then, vehicles have become more efficient and burn much cleaner. TxDOT spokesperson Val Lopez says in turn, the slower speed limits now have very little effect on air quality.

"So we were able to go there and do some speed studies on our interstates and determine what the speed limits actually should be," said Lopez.

Specifically, TxDOT looked at how fast 85 percent of drivers on a given highway were traveling -- then using that data, the agency ultimately determined limits should increase anywhere from five to ten miles per hour on most highways.

The change sits well with some drivers.

"I think it's about time they woke up and did that," said Anthony Davis, who lives in Fort Worth. "I love the 70 mile an hour speed limits."

Other drivers have concerns.

"It's like giving a kid a new car and saying have fun," said Al Sparks, who lives in Fort Worth. "They're already running 70 miles per hour. And if you raise it up, they're going to run 80."

"If you're out in the rural area that's fine," said Thurston. "but I think I-20 – through all that area, it has so much congestion already that 70 is probably a little too fast."

Lopez said the increased speed limits are the result of "sound engineering" and should improve safety.

"If you have big variability in speeds between the slowest and fastest driver, you actually have a less safe environment," said Lopez. "So the more consistent the speed of the travelers, the better off you are."

Lopez says the new signs will be installed throughout July. In the meantime, drivers should obey all posted speed limits as they are. He also warns that not every stretch of every highway will see a speed limit increase.

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