Sunday, May 19, 2013
The Chicago Tribune
Everything is bigger in Texas, they say, and when it comes to one type of highway sign, it's at least figuratively true. Later this year, the Lone Star State will acquire bragging rights for the highest speed limit in America – 85 mph.
We know what some Texans thought on hearing this news: Only 85? At that rate, it would take 9 1/2 hours to go from El Paso to Texarkana – the latter of which is actually closer to Chicago.
In the minds of some lead-footed motorists, there is no such thing as excessive speed. But elsewhere, you can find critics who have doubts about allowing drivers to travel legally, as the publication Transportation Nation put it, "faster than hurricane force winds."
The new speed limit will apply only on a 41-mile stretch of a new toll road constructed parallel to Interstate 35. It was built to relieve a chronic bottleneck on the highway running from Laredo, along the Mexico border, to San Antonio, Austin, Dallas-Fort Worth and north all the way to Duluth. A few other highways in Texas will remain at a mere 80 mph.
Anyone who has ever traveled across the state by car can understand the impulse to accelerate. But it turns out there's another factor at work: money. The contract with the company that operates the tollway, reports The Wall Street Journal, "offers the state a one-time payment of $100 million for approving an 85 mph speed limit."
The state says the highway is designed to safely accommodate high speeds. Those averse to the risks of supersonic motoring will have the option of the interstate, where officials have been so thoughtful as to lower the limit from 65 mph to 55 mph.
And if 85 mph seems unsafe? Well, we know a fast route out of Texas.