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The 85 MPH toll road is now open

So far, it seems like the only people on the newly-opened 85 MPH Texas 130 toll road are reporters writing about what it’s like to legally drive that fast.

About an hour after road workers removed the hundreds of bright orange cones blocking the entrances and exits to the new State Highway 130 toll road, I gave the fastest highway in the country a test drive.

From Austin to Seguin, the road has a posted speed limit of 85 mph, a number my speedometer doesn’t reach on a regular basis. On the occasions I have found myself driving that fast, it’s usually been unintentional. I would be moving along on an open stretch of some rural highway, glance down and see the needle higher than I had expected and slightly ease off the gas pedal.

Along with far too many references to a terrible Sammy Hagar song and not enough nods to the best line from Back to the Future, the new toll road has generated a vigorous debate over whether the 85 mph speed limit is just too fast.

A “terrible Sammy Hagar song”? Those are fighting words, my friend. Let’s see if this Chron story is less incendiary.

Within seconds of reaching 85 mph, I hit another milestone without even trying.

90 mph. Just like that.

I didn’t realize how fast 85 mph really is until I started passing everyone else on the road, or when I suddenly had to slow down. There’s not much wiggle room when a car travels those speeds.

[…]

For the next two weeks, drivers can test out the speeds for free. The tolls kick in on Nov. 11; rates will be based on the size of the vehicle, method of payment and how far the vehicle travels.

A Lockhart pastor who wouldn’t give his name because, he said, he didn’t want to make any enemies, described the two-week moratorium on tolls like a pretty woman or an illegal substance. Both lure you in. But a little taste of those high speeds, and you’re hooked:

“It’s gonna be like alcohol,” he said. Soon, you “can’t put that bottle down.”

Caldwell County Precinct 1 Constable Victor “Smitty” Terrell worries about vehicles coming off the toll road to feeder roads with 55 mph speeds.

And don’t get Terrell started on wild hogs and the hazard they pose as they travel in packs. Texas 130 was built in an area where there has been little or no development. That’s meant a lot of wildlife displacement.

He looked at my car and predicted the worst.

“If a couple hundred pound hog went underneath that Honda Civic, and it went on the corner and hit you just right,” he said, “it’d flip you.”

There’s a vivid image for you. Apparently, a couple of hogs have already been hit, but so far no humans have reported injuries as a result.

Finally, for a lighter look at the experience, the Statesman’s Ken Herman tried the new road out in a Smart car.

My car for opening day was a Smart microcar, less than half the length of a Suburban, rented from Car2Go. My dual mission was to be among the first on the nation’s fastest highway and to see whether a Smart could go 85. Perhaps this is a boy thing.

First, some safety notes. Though tiny, the Smart gets pretty good safety ratings from the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety. There was, however, a 2009 IIHS report noting the Smart and two other microcars were “poor performers in the frontal collisions with midsize cars.”

“These results,” we’re told, “reflect the laws of the physical universe.”

I’m thinking you’re going to pay a hefty hourly rate for a lawyer to get you around those laws.

As you can see, he lived to tell the tale. All three writers report zipping past the 85 MPH mark without realizing they had done so, which isn’t terribly surprising. I suspect that will be a common occurrence. I’d say I’m looking forward to seeing what the accident rate is on this highway, but I’m really not. Anyway, I suspect this road won’t be this empty for long, so take advantage now if you can.

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One Comment

  1. Mark says:

    Darwin at work

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