In terms of scenic interest, it is as disappointing as a mild chilli pepper in a bowl of Tex-Mex…

KM Texas Autobahn 01

Austin, Texas…

Road hogs are a common sight at dusk here on the so-called Texas autobahn.

I’m not talking about those crazy drivers transported by four-wheeled vehicles, but those of the four-legged variety… boars!

And just like their two-legged, lead-footed brethren, the cloven-hoofed wild pigs cause crashes – four bad smashes on the first night that the high speed State Highway 130 toll road opened back in October, 2012.

Last week, I wrote about a drive on the no-speed limit autobahn from Munich to Berlin. The piece was prompted by the recent Insights West/Black Press poll about increasing speed limits on highways in BC. I just had to try out the North American equivalent of the autobahn with its 85 mph limit (approximately 137 km/h) and here are my observations.

After driving a sporty Audi S6 on the toll highway from Austin on a day trip to San Antonio, I think there must have been more boars than cars on the route for long stretches. It was a lonely daytime drive in the S6 with very few cars passing in either direction. In terms of scenic interest, it’s as disappointing as a mild chilli pepper in a bowl of Tex-Mex.

It’s not that the tolls are high on the 65-kilometre stretch I travelled on the 210-kilometre route – less than $10, under $30 for commercial trucks. But the 85 mph limit is just not fast enough to encourage people to use it for what is a fairly short distance between those two major centres. And that’s especially so, when the posted speed limit on the regular toll-free state highways was raised to 75 mph (120 km/h) shortly after the turnpike was opened. The main section is also well to the east of Austin so there was a trek before I could unleash the horses under the hood.

It would help to hike the limit another 10 mph (16 km/h): It’s a very well-engineered road and I can’t see that causing carnage. At the risk of attracting the interest of a Texan posse bent on a hanging, I might suggest that a reduction of the limit in the same magnitude on the regular highways might dramatically increase custom along the way.

The only positive I can say is that I maintained the top legal speed for the length of the trip, which, as I reported last week, was impossible on the congested “no-speed limit” autobahn between Munich and Berlin.

The growing network of toll roads in central Texas may have the highest speed limits in the nation but unless they ultimately stretch to Houston and/or Corpus Christi on the Gulf coast, it’s hard to imagine the operators emerging from the billion-dollar financial quagmire.

The Department of Transportation has ended a rebate that had allowed trucks to use the road for the same price as cars since last April.

That disincentive is likely to increase the red ink.

Contact: keith [dot] morgan [at] drivewaybc [dot] ca

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