New 80 mph speed limits approved in three Texas counties

| 5/26/2006

Starting Saturday, May 27, rural areas of Texas will see higher speed limits on portions of Interstate 10 and Interstate 20.

New rules allowing for a maximum speed limit of 80 mph in rural, less populated areas were approved Thursday, May 25, by the Texas Transportation Commission during its monthly meeting.

The vote increases 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. The new speed limit signs will be unveiled in time for Memorial Day weekend travel.

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, will not be affected by the increase. The nighttime speed for all vehicles will also remain at 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 in 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 based 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 plan, however, argued that raising the limits to such high levels will increase accidents and fatalities.

– By Aaron Ladage, staff writer