Texas lawmakers OK higher speeds, wipeout of Trans-Texas Corridor

| Wednesday, May 25, 2011

A legislative effort to put to rest any lingering uncertainty about a proposed Texas superhighway is on its way to the governor’s office. Perhaps more notably, the bill would also authorize the fastest speeds in the nation.

The Texas House voted unanimously Tuesday, May 24, to sign off on Senate changes to a bill that would permit the speed limit on certain new roadways to be set at 85 mph. HB1201 now moves to Gov. Rick Perry’s desk for his signature, or his veto. Senate lawmakers already approved the bill by unanimous consent.

If approved by the governor, speeds of 85 mph could be authorized on highways built after June 1, 2011. The Texas Department of Transportation would be required to perform engineering and traffic studies to determine whether the speed is appropriate on new construction.

State law now authorizes drivers to travel 70 mph during the day along most rural highways. The speed limit drops to 65 mph at night. Trucks are slowed to 60 mph on farm-to-market roads.

Texas has more than 520 miles of Interstate 10 and Interstate 20 in west Texas posted at 80 mph during the day for motorists while trucks are limited to 70 mph. Speeds for all vehicles are lowered to 65 mph at night.

A separate bill on its way to the governor’s desk also addresses speed limits. Speed limits on most rural highways would be increased to 75 mph day and night – as long as studies deem it safe. In addition, any speed differential between cars and trucks would be eliminated.

The 80 mph speed limit in West Texas would also apply to all vehicles 24 hours a day.

OOIDA leadership says the uniformity of speeds is truckers’ primary concern.

“The only speed limit policy that makes sense is to have all vehicles traveling at the same speed,” said OOIDA Executive Vice President Todd Spencer.

A separate provision in the 85-mph speed limit authorization bill – HB1201 – would write the Trans-Texas Corridor out of the books.

The corridor was once championed by Gov. Rick Perry. Approved in 2003, the proposed 4,000-mile network of toll roads was billed as setting the path for a NAFTA superhighway stretching from the Mexican border to Canada.

After years of debate in Austin, the multibillion-dollar TTC was declared dead in 2009, but concern about language still on the books has spurred additional action.

The bill would remove any reference to the failed highway project from statute, which would bring the state in line with the cancellation of the project.

OOIDA has criticized the corridor plan since it was unveiled. The Association cited reasons that included the proposed toll rate of 50 cents per mile for large trucks.

To view other legislative activities of interest for Texas, click here.

Editor’s Note: Please share your thoughts with us about the legislation included in this story. Comments may be sent to statelegislativedesk@ooida.com.