Wednesday, April 20, 2011

And more speed limits get raised

Last week, in my post about the State Legislature's proposal to raise speed limits to 85 mph on certain West Texas Interstates, I noted that I hadn't heard of any proposals to raise the statewide nighttime speed limit of 65 mph. It took only a few days for the Lege to make a liar out of me:

Legislation that would eliminate lower nighttime speed limits in Texas, allow trucks to drive at the same speed as cars on all highways and authorize rural highway limits of 75 mph statewide was given initial approval by the Texas House on Friday. The so-called debate — no House member had questions or comments for the bill sponsor — lasted about three minutes, and House Bill 1353 passed on a voice vote without opposition.

The legislation by state Rep. Gary Elkins, R-Houston, will need one more House vote before moving to the Senate, where Elkins said that Transportation Committee chairman Sen. Tommy Williams, R-The Woodlands, has agreed to carry the bill.

The legislation would abolish the 5 mph differential between day and night limits on many Texas highways. And in the 150 or so Texas counties, most of them in the eastern half of the state, where the maximum speed limit on rural highways is now 70 mph, the Texas Department of Transportation would be allowed to up it to 75 mph, following traffic and engineering studies.

My thoughts about this change are the same as for the West Texas change: by raising maximum posted speeds by a mere five miles per hour, you're only shaving a handful of minutes off those hours-long drives between Houston and Dallas or San Antonio. However, raising the maximum speed limit to 75 does bring Texas in line with several other central and western states, including Kansas, Oklahoma, New Mexico and Colorado.

And I'm not going to shed any tears over the death of the lower nighttime limit. In my experience they are almost universally ignored by motorists, and the fact that Texas has nighttime limits at all made it an outlier in relation to the rest of the nation.

As the article states, traffic and engineering studies of candidate highways will need to be undertaken before any limits are raised, so we probably won't see any 75 mph signs along I-45 until the summer of 2012. Kuff has more.

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