Texas considers speed increases on western interstates

| 5/16/2006

Officials in Texas are considering a plan that would widen the gap between truck and four-wheeler speeds on two interstates in the western rural parts of the state.

The proposal, scheduled to be voted on by the Texas Transportation Commission May 25, would increase the daytime speeds for cars on Interstate 10 and Interstate 20 in Pecos, Reeves and Ward Counties to 80 mph, making it one of the highest speed limits on any road in the country.

Glen Larum, public information officer for the Texas Department of Transportation, told Land Line the current speed in Pecos and Reeves Counties is 75 mph, while Ward County is 70 mph. Truck speeds, which are currently 70 mph during the day in all three counties, would not be increased by the proposal. The nighttime speed for all vehicles would also remain at its current 65 mph.

The move was made possible by a bill signed into law in June 2005 by Gov. Rick Perry that gave the Commission the right to raise daytime speeds for four-wheelers counties with 15 people or less per square mile. Currently, only 10 counties in the state are eligible.

According to the Houston Chronicle, the commission is basing its decision on the fact that drivers on the two roads already travel at higher rates of speed in the rural areas.

“If people begin to think that the number on the sign is unreasonable, then they won’t respect it,” Carlos Lopez, a spokesman for the commission, told the Chronicle. “Just putting up a lower number on the highway isn’t going to slow down traffic.

Opponents of the speed increase, however, believe raising the limits to such high levels will increase accidents and fatalities.