Texas Highway Speeds Limits Are the Fastest, but Good Luck Hitting Them

Categories: Transportation

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Marcia Cirillo
This Dallas driver could be going 70 down this road.

Maybe the image that comes to mind when you picture Texas roads is zipping down a West Texas highway in a pickup truck with a dusty breeze whipping through your hair. It's the image Ford has probably seared into your mind through years of advertising, and one that's occasionally pretty accurate -- as long as you steer far away from Texas cities.

A Governor's Highway Safety Association report shows that Texas roads have the highest speed limits in the country. But we also have through-the-roof traffic numbers. You may be allowed to drive faster on Texas roads than in any other state, but you probably won't be able to because you'll be crawling in traffic past that 75 mph sign. In other words, your rush hour commute has just become about 10 times more frustrating.

The new report measures the average posted speed limits of each state's major roads. In Texas we have an average posted speed limit that's almost 2 mph faster than Idaho, the next highest ranking state. The speed limit on Texas roadways averages to just over 78 mph.

Part of that has to do with factoring in the Austin to San Antonio stretch where you can drive 85 mph. When State Highway 130 opened as a toll road in 2012 it became the fastest road in the country, and was promptly declared the "American Autobahn."

But a TomTom report from earlier this summer shows that Texas cities are some of the slowest. On a list of the top 50 most congested cities in the western hemisphere, only California beats us for the state with the most congested cities. Houston, Austin, DFW, and San Antonio are all in the top 50, while California boasts six cities.

And the cost of traffic is high. In Dallas, for example, you're likely to waste more than 59 hours and $1,000 in traffic this year.

Basically, you're doomed to sit in traffic, knowing that you could be among the fastest drivers in the country. Try to ignore the devilishly tempting speed limit signs that tease you as you creep along -- we hear blinders work wonders.

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44 comments
wontunow
wontunow

Good reason to stay in your neighborhood this Labor Day Weekend, and not go anywhere.  Plus, college football starts this week.  More traffic.  The old Texas Stadium that held 60,000 plus fans, in my opinion, did not add to traffic woes on the weekend.  But honestly, the New Stadium that holds 100,000 actually does add to traffic issues on weekends.

steve1014
steve1014

Hey you all......There is a new invention out.  It's called a train.  Have modern-day Texans heard of it yet?  The same amount of tax dollar input and public support for rail that highways always elicit (to no avail as shown above) could built a high-speed efficient city and state-wide mass transit system like every place in the modern world already has....

anonymous
anonymous

How is this news?  Or is this just a NCTCOG press release that got reprinted in the Observer?

DerpDudeTX
DerpDudeTX

I want my bullet trains and monorails damn it. The Matlock Expressway is overrated.

Tim.Covington
Tim.Covington

1. Gee the second most populous state ranks behind the first most populous state in the number of congested cities. That's such a huge surprise.

2. Once you get out of the urban areas speed really picks up. Though, to avoid the traffic and congestion on I-35 when going to Austin, I suggest heading out a little further west. The scenery is better. Though, you will have to slow down in some of the towns along the way. But, I find it to be a much more pleasant drive than I-35.

Montemalone
Montemalone topcommenter

That $1000 is just on tollroads.

TheRuddSki
TheRuddSki topcommenter

Take a vacay on the eastern seaboard. You'll never complain about Texas traffic again.

TheCredibleHulk
TheCredibleHulk topcommenter

This back-to-school traffic is a beating.

I miss summer when all of those soccer moms were still snoozing during my commute. :-(

pak152
pak152

It all really depends upon the time of day. I've hit 80 on a regular basis on Central in the mid-day and still folks were passing me.

ScottsMerkin
ScottsMerkin topcommenter

Most freeways that rush hour traffic affects do not have a speed limit of 75 mph, more like 60 or 55 in dowtown dallas.  The few freeways that have a 70 mph speed limit are the SRT and the GBT and while rush hour affects them, most of the time the speed remains above 55 mph barring an accident.  Get outside of the Metro and its fairly easy to hit the posted speed limits and drive west and and it fairly easy to blow right past the speed limit with only a state trooper there to slow you down

TomKirk
TomKirk

The 85 MPH section of 130 is actually from Austin to just east of Seguin. San Antonio is another 30 miles down IH 10. 

And that's the reason there's lots of room and no one will mind if you drive it at 87.

Anon.
Anon.

Doomed to sit in traffic. Yep. Try driving in the Texas Triangle on a weekend or holiday. Holiday traffic on IH35 or IH45 has always been bad, but these days it is almost impossible. Why is it so bad? 26,500,000 people in Texas, and intra-state, inter-state, and international trade. 


This is why it is not simply important, but critical that Congress and the various state legislatures get their collective acts together and figure out how to properly fund transportation infrastructure across the country. From the NextGen air traffic system to interstate highways to rivers to canals to coastal ports, all of it needs massive amounts of spending. It isn't like we, as a country, are saving any money not maintaining and expanding our basic infrastructure. It is a case of do it now, or do it later. If we don't spend this basic infrastructure money when it should be spent then all that does is cost all of us more in the long run in increased construction costs and uncounted millions of hours of collective delays at airports, seaports, and on highways.


Tens of thousands of commercial trucks enter and leave the DFW Metroplex every day. Hundreds upon hundreds of thousand passenger vehicles are on the roads with those commercial trucks. In the next couple of decades Texas is on track to become the most populous state in the country. It sometimes takes a decade to get a highway project through all the regulatory processes before the first grain of dirt is moved, and then complicated projects take years to actually build. That means we have about a decade to get started on highway projects across the state that we will need twenty years from now. 


That's why all the toll roads are popping up now. Michael Morris does love to build highways, that's true. He is a master at shuffling vast amounts of money around in order to fund all these projects. And he is the region's most astute politician who can get over 40 elected officials to almost always do exactly, without much discussion, what he wants even when it is clearly not good public policy. Love him or hate him, he gets roads built.


If Collin County (and others) don't want toll roads, or even tolled features on existing roads, then they need to stop with their Tea Party rhetoric and understand the there is no such thing as a free highway. Every highway costs money, not only to build, but to operate and maintain over time. That means the Collin County Contingency needs to cough up the cash to construct roads somehow, if they don't want more tolled highways in Collin County. The same holds true across the state wherever new or expanded highways are needed.


If you don't like the traffic then tell your state and national elected senators and representatives to fund transportation. 

Sotiredofitall
Sotiredofitall topcommenter

Recommend some day you take 20 to Odessa (and Big Bend) to experience the Texas Autobahn.

ScottsMerkin
ScottsMerkin topcommenter

@wontunow I can say unequivocally  that traffic around the new Cowboys stadium flows 10,000X's better than anything around the old stadium.  You could never get out of old texas stadium and onto the freeway in under 30 minutes unless you left in the 3rd quarter.  You can stay the whole game now and be on I30 in under 10 minutes if you park in the correct lots.  Now if you have to get on 360, that takes a little longer 

ThePosterFormerlyKnownasPaul
ThePosterFormerlyKnownasPaul topcommenter

@TheRuddSki 

Nothing was worse than the Schuykill Expressway in Philadelphia, or as it was locally known:  "The SureKill Expressway".

Other than dodging potholes (that looked like bomb craters), rocks falling off of the cliffs, car parts and other drivers, it was a piece of cake.

ScottsMerkin
ScottsMerkin topcommenter

@TheCredibleHulk I've found my commute to be better now that school is back in.  It seems people leave later for work so my earlier commute has been about 5 minutes faster this week

dingo
dingo

@TomKirk 

'The 85 MPH section of 130 is actually from Austin to just east of Seguin.'

85 mph is nice when you are alert and suitably equipped.

There was, OTH, a SUV-full-of-kids tire blowout multiple fatality accident on that road this summer.

Those tire speed ratings decline significantly when the tires are driven long past their suitable lifetimes.

ThePosterFormerlyKnownasPaul
ThePosterFormerlyKnownasPaul topcommenter

@Anon. 

In order to  maintain his mantra of "No New Taxes", Li'l Ricky moved the state gas tax from being a dedicated fund for road construction and maintenance to being just another tax put into the General Fund.  BTW, 25% of the state gas tax is dedicated to "Education".


In order for TXDOT to get money for road maintenance or new construction, they have to get an appropriation from the Legislature.


The gas tax along with other dedicated funds were put into the general fund.  Why do you think that are state parks are in such lousy condition.

ThePosterFormerlyKnownasPaul
ThePosterFormerlyKnownasPaul topcommenter

@Sotiredofitall 

My favorite is I10 from Junction to Ft. Stockton, especially the drive where the Edwards Plateau drops down into the Pecos River Valley.

Besides, this stretch of I10 makes that stretch of I20 look like the big city.

wcvemail
wcvemail

@MaxNoDifference @Tim.Covington

Tim, Max, I, and Joe Ely all prefer 281 -- that's official, then. He had a line about I35 sucking the soul out of a good man that I try to remember when the I35 road rage comes upon me. Doesn't work.

TheRuddSki
TheRuddSki topcommenter

@steve1014

Well, not in public.

kfries1
kfries1

@ThePosterFormerlyKnownasPaul @TheRuddSki Having lived there and driven on the "World's Biggest Parking Lot", I'd just like to point out that the Surekill was acknowledged as undersized when it opened in the late 50's. Given that much of it sits on the side of steep hills, widening it isn't practical.
You left out the frequent rush hour accidents. In it's more recent history, a shoulder was put in on some stretches but an accident or disabled vehicle back then was a complete killer. Woe to anyone with a flat tire.

TheCredibleHulk
TheCredibleHulk topcommenter

@ScottsMerkin @TheCredibleHulk

I tend to get complacent in the summer months and sleep in until 5:00 or so, which gets me on the road around 6:00 for an easy 30 minute ride.

This Monday, I was a little late and hit the Hwy around 6:15 and that same 30 minute commute turned into an hour and 10 minutes.

ScottsMerkin
ScottsMerkin topcommenter

@dingo @TomKirk most people have no idea what the tire speed rating is for their tires, much less how to interpret it

Anon.
Anon.

@ThePosterFormerlyKnownasPaul:

There's a lot of daylight between my beliefs and morals and those of Gov. Good Hair, but we can't blame him for that education diversion. That education funding mechanism has been a feature of the budget for a long, long time. That being said, the Texas Legislature loves to do two things in its two year budget cycles. They love to divert funds from their intended purposes, while at the same time not spend other funds for anything at all, despite those dollars also being dedicated to specific things.

Out of the twenty cents we all pay per gallon on gasoline, only $0.075 actually makes it to TxDOT. A smidgen under a nickel goes to education, a bit goes to the comptroller's office for administrative costs, a lot goes to fund the Texas Department of Public Safety, leaving only seven and a half cents to pay for both highway maintenance and new construction.

Even if all of that twenty cents went to TxDOT that still wouldn't be sufficient to fund all the maintenance costs on existing highways AND build the new highways we already need. Study after study show folks are driving less and buying more fuel efficient cars, and that trend shows no sign of reversing. No wonder TxDOT can't get ahead of the curve!

The simple fact is, fuel taxes are no longer able to fund our transportation needs. It will probably take a combination of ending the diversions while also dedicating a part of the vehicle registration fees to transportation, as well as part of the state sales tax paid on car sales and a part of the existing sales taxes paid on automotive parts, and likely that will still not get us all the way there.

But it would be a good start.

Tim.Covington
Tim.Covington

@ThePosterFormerlyKnownasPaul @Anon. Exactly. Gas taxes (along with vehicle registration fees) take in enough money for maintenance and expansion of our state highways. But, the legislature spends the money on other things.

And, taxes on sporting goods (yes, there is a tax on sporting goods) and license fees (for fishing and hunting) take in enough to properly fund the Texas Parks and Wildlife Department. But, again the legislature diverts that money to other things.

It is my understanding that the same goes for the lottery and public schools.


This is why, until something is actually done to dedicate money from specific taxes to only those things they are for, I refuse to support any new taxes on the state level.

wcvemail
wcvemail

@TheCredibleHulk @ScottsMerkin

Increase from 30 mins to 70 mins based on a 15-min start difference -- in a Calculus I class deriving that, I would have rejected that answer as unpossible, and tried again. All too real in the world outside textbooks, though.

TheCredibleHulk
TheCredibleHulk topcommenter

@ScottsMerkin @TheCredibleHulk

I don't envy that prospect. Mine will probably get a bit better as the "back-to-school" flurry calms back down again. Yours is fixin' to get much worse.

Good luck with all that.

ScottsMerkin
ScottsMerkin topcommenter

@ThePosterFormerlyKnownasPaul @Sotiredofitall Ive noticed in my lifetime of driving, that heading east or west in Texas, 99% of folks follow the "left lane is for passing rule"  Heading North or South, not so much.  Everytime I drove back from Kansas it was clear sailing until you hit the Texas border and all of a sudden its like everyone thinks they own the left lane and need to cruise in it

ThePosterFormerlyKnownasPaul
ThePosterFormerlyKnownasPaul topcommenter

@ScottsMerkin @ThePosterFormerlyKnownasPaul @Sotiredofitall 

I love it, the left lane is packed bumper to bumper and the right lane has a vehicle about every 1/2 mile, or even worse there are two vehicles pacing each other at 5 MPH below the speed limit.

And then there are the semis passing each other, the one in the right lane going 64.3 MPH and the one in the left lane going 64.4 MPH.

Sotiredofitall
Sotiredofitall topcommenter

@ThePosterFormerlyKnownasPaul @ScottsMerkin @Sotiredofitall Ever driven 40 through Tennessee - now that's highway hell  But worth it to get to the Blue Ridge 

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