LOCKHART, Texas (AP) — Drivers, start your engines! The green flag has dropped on the last leg of a Texas toll road with the nation's fastest speed limit.
With a 3-foot-long pair of ceremonial scissors, Texas Gov. Rick Perry snipped a ribbon Wednesday on the privately built stretch of the Texas 130 toll road — famous for its 85-mph speed limit.
"There are very few people that get up and say they love road construction, but I think everyone is happy when you open a road up," Perry told those gathered for the dedication.
The SH 130 Concession Co., the toll road's developer and manager, bought the right to set the super-speedy speed limit for $100 million in its contract with the Texas Transportation Commission.
The highway was to have been part of Perry's much-ballyhooed Trans Texas Corridor, a privately developed superhighway and transportation program that eventually died amid widespread criticism from landowners and property-rights advocates upset at plans to condemn private land to make space for the highway.
"There was no shortage of individuals inside and outside the Capitol who said it couldn't be done," Perry said. "It can be seen now in asphalt and concrete that it can be done."
A 50-mile stretch with a speed limit of 80 mph was previously completed from Georgetown to Mustang Ridge — from 25 miles north of Austin to 15 miles south of Austin. The newly opened 41-mile stretch with the nation's fastest speed limit completes the route south to Interstate 10 near Seguin, about 40 miles east of San Antonio.
The toll road is intended to help alleviate the increasingly crowded Interstate 35 corridor between Austin and San Antonio, two of the state's largest metropolitan areas. Driving on the newly opened stretch will be free until Nov. 11, when motorists with state electronic toll tags will start paying about 15 cents per mile, up to $6.17 for the full 41 miles; those without toll tags will be billed $8.21 for the full length.
Truckers will pay more than $24, but the American Trucking Association has called the road unsafe for truck traffic. Last month, the Arlington, Va.-based organization urged the Texas Transportation Commission to reverse its decision to allow an 85 mph speed limit and cautioned other states not to follow the example.
Truck driver Mike Wilson told KVUE-TV of Austin his truck won't even go 85. "It's governed out at 75," he said. Another trucker, James Regenauer, told the station, "Anytime you got two different speeds set for two different vehicles on the same road — you know what I mean? It's going to cause a problem."
However, motorist Kristine Latham of Austin saw no problem. "Honestly, I think it's a good idea because people go over the speed limit anyways," she said.