About 12 years ago, TxDOT opened the privately funded SH 130 toll road that bypasses Austin and was supposed to alleviate traffic congestion in Interstate 35. Trouble is, it’s so far outside of town and so expensive that few people use it. It routinely takes longer to bypass Austin on the toll road than to sit in traffic on the free interstate.

56 minutes and $13, or 43 minutes and free? Not much of a decision.

So the state took a $100M payout from the toll road company to increase the speed limit to 85 in 2012, making it the highest posted speed limit in the country. People still aren’t taking the toll road, and deaths have increased along with the speed limit. It was a boondoggle from the start, and remains so. Of course, you don’t have to drive 85, and many don’t. And of course, many drive faster. I found this tidbit from a local news story interesting:

On average, drivers speeding in zones marked with an 85-mph sign travel about 98 mph, according to an analysis of DPS data. Last year, more than half of speed-limit violators on the toll road were clocked going 95 mph or faster, and 115 people were alleged to be driving 100 mph or faster on the toll road. Those DPS records showed one driver going 143 mph.

I’d love to know what that person going 143 was driving. IMO, 85 is simply too fast, especially on a road that is only two lanes for much of the way. But, like all the toll roads in Austin, this was never about easing congestion. It was always about making money.