In May, the 82nd Texas Legislature passed and the Governor Rick Perry signed House Bill 1353, which took effect on 1 September. This legislation allows the Texas Department of Transportation (TxDOT) to create a 75-mph speed limit on sections of the highway system found to be reasonable and safe through a speed study. The bill also eliminates the speed limit distinction between day and night and between cars and trucks.
A separate bill, HB 1201, also passed in May and signed by the Governor in June, amends the Transportation Code to repeal the authority for the establishment and operation of the Trans-Texas Corridor and amends that code and the Tax Code to remove statutory references to the corridor. In addition, the bill establishes certain conditions under which the commission may establish a speed limit not to exceed 85 mph on a part of the state highway system that was designed to accommodate travel at that speed if, after an engineering and traffic investigation, the commission determined that the speed limit was reasonable and safe.
HB 1353. The elimination of the day-night distinction under HB 1353 also applies to the currently allowed 80-mph speed limit (in daytime) on a part of Interstate Highway 10 or Interstate Highway 20 in Crockett, Culberson, Hudspeth, Jeff Davis, Kerr, Kimble, Pecos, Reeves, Sutton, or Ward Counties; i.e., West Texas.)
Outside of urban districts, the speed limit would be 70 mph on a numbered highway and 60 mph on a non-numbered highway. As soon as practicable, the Texas Department of Transportation (TxDOT) would have to conceal or remove any old speed limit signs and install updated ones.
TxDOT awarded maintenance contracts in August to remove the nighttime and truck speed limit signs and is also in the process of hiring consultants to perform the required speed studies needed to implement the higher speed limits.
We will be removing the existing nighttime speed limit signs, truck speed limit signs, and evaluating approximately 50,000 miles of state highway with a current 70-mile hour speed limit. With these contracts in place, we are moving steadily ahead to implement these new laws. However, it is important to remember that any increases to speed limits are not effective until the new speed limit signs are actually installed.—Carol Rawson, TxDOT Director of Traffic Operations
The existing 65-mile per hour night and truck speed limit signs should be removed by the end of this year. The complete evaluation of the state highway system and posting of all new 75 mph speed limits should be complete by early 2013.
Speed limits in Texas are set by the 85th percentile method, which represents the speed the majority of drivers are traveling at or below. TxDOT calls this a sound engineering principle used to set speed limits on highways nationwide for the past 60 years.
HB 1201. In 2002, Gov. Perry announced plans for the Trans-Texas Corridor, which called for the Texas Department of Transportation (TxDOT) to build 4,000 miles of multimodal corridors connecting major metropolitan areas over two decades. Over the next several years, the project faced a number of setbacks, according to the analysis of the bill by the House Research organization (HRO).
In 2009, TxDOT announced plans to suspend work on the Trans-Texas Corridor as a whole, focusing instead on key routes contained in the proposal.
HB 1201 also authorizes the Texas Transportation Commission to allow an oversize or overweight vehicle to be operated on a lane designated as an exclusive lane on the state highway system if the operation is supported by an engineering and traffic study that includes specified analyses and makes the authorization inapplicable to certain vehicles and roadways.