The Huntsville Item, Huntsville, TX

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August 31, 2011

New law increases speed limit to 75 mph

HUNTSVILLE — Anyone with a lead foot has reason to rejoice.

Speed limits along many Texas highways will soon change to 75 miles per hour. The nighttime limit of 65 is being discontinued, as are speed limits for tractor trailers.

Some areas will maintain lower limits because of specific safety concerns, and all highways will be evaluated before speed limits change.

In Texas, speed limits are set by a method known as the 85th percentile, which considers the speed the majority of drivers are traveling. Those limits are set lower on roadways that “speed studies” show are more dangerous than average.  

The Texas Department of Transportation will change signage in increments over the next several months, a TxDOT spokesman said.

 House Bill 1353 changed the limits, along with repealing the nighttime speed limit. The law goes into effect Thursday, after which the 65-mile per hour night speed limit and all truck speed limits will no longer be enforceable.

TxDOT already has awarded contracts for the removal of night and truck speed limit signage.

Some areas are too dangerous for speed limits to be raised, according to Erik Burse, the Texas Department of Public Safety spokesman. One area of particular concern is a stretch of Interstate 45 between Montgomery and Walker counties where a high number of fatality accidents have happened.

“If you’re going to change the speed limit, then a study has to be done in that area on safety,” Burse said. “Because of the number of fatalities from Montgomery to Walker County, I doubt we pass that study.”

Burse said some areas needed a speed limit change, and he welcomes the idea of doing away with nighttime limits.

“I like the way they’re looking at it,” he said. “I think some of it is good. For trucks, going from 65 to 70 miles per hour — I don’t see a problem with that at all. I don’t think it’s going to pose that much of a threat. It’s only 5 miles per hour.”

The stretch of I-45 known for its high fatality rate is set at 65 miles per hour, five miles lower than similar stretches of highway. Burse said he expects that speed limit to stand.

“Personally, I don’t see TxDOT increasing the speed limit there,” he said. “I’m for safety. In some areas where you have high fatalities, I don’t see an increase in speed limits.”

Night and truck speed limit signs are expected to be removed by the end of the year. Installation of new 75 mile per hour signage is expected to be complete by early 2013.

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