Significant toll revenues are expected for the newly-approved 41-miles of high-speed toll lanes between Austin and San Antonio, according to Houston CultureMap:
Soon travelers will have another option for traversing the 80-some odd miles that separate Austin and San Antonio than the chronically congested I-35 corridor. For a price, they can zoom down SH 130 at 85 mph — the highest speed limit in the country.
The Texas Legislature approved 85 mph speed limits last year, and the Texas Transportation Commission approved the high speeds for the 41-mile stretch between Austin and Seguin during an Aug. 30 public meeting.
Though Texas Department of Transportation officials insist that safety is their top priority, there are pecuniary perks to upping the speed limit. According to the Associated Press,
“The state contract with the toll operator allows the state to collect a $67 million up-front cash payment or a percentage of the toll profits in the future if the speed limit is 80 mph or lower. At 85 mph, the cash payment balloons to $100 million or a higher percentage of toll revenues.”
Those 41 contentious miles comprise segments 5 and 6 of the tollway and will not be riddled with toll plazas; tolls will instead be collected electronically, leaving motorists with pretty much no reason to slow down the pace.
With Federal highway funding running low, the practice of making toll lanes with increased speeds may soon spread to other states as well, according to USA Today:
“There’s a bit of an ‘arms race’ with speed limits, so we fully expect other states to push to increase their limits,” says Jonathan Adkins, spokesman for the Governors Highway Safety Association, a non-profit group that represents the states’ highway safety offices.
Other states are most likely to hike speed limits on toll roads, says Joshua Schank, president and CEO of the non-partisan Eno Center for Transportation. “That’s something we’re likely to see more of because federal funding for free roads is drying up,” he says, meaning more states are turning to toll roads. “When you do that, it gives you the opportunity to offer premium services on those roads. Higher speeds is one way of doing that.”
Schank notes that the new multiyear federal transportation funding bill passed by Congress in June significantly increases loans available to states to build toll roads.