A decision made by the Regional Transportation Council 13 years ago may be reversed Thursday, giving motorists in the Metroplex the legal right to drive a little faster — 5 mph faster.
In 2001 the RTC, in an effort to help the area meet Environmental Protection Agency clean air standards, approved a plan to reduce speed limits in the area by 5 mph across the board.
Research regarding automobile emissions at the time indicated that when vehicles exceeded 60 or 65 mph, emissions of nitrogen oxides (NOx) spiked. But updated studies by the council of governments show that such speeds by cars, pickups and heavy trucks would increase NOx emissions some, but not as dramatically as originally thought.
This is due in part to increased fuel efficiency of new automobiles, and the council of governments has identified other transportation improvements that would reduce traffic congestion and therefore emissions of NOx.
Because of that, and the EPA’s approval of a long list of things to offset any negative impact on air pollution, the RTC may vote Thursday to raise the speed limit by 5 mph on Dallas-Fort Worth freeways, Star-Telegram writer Gordon Dickson reported Wednesday.
That means expressways with speed limits of 60 mph would be raised to 65 mph; those now with 65 mph limits would rise to 70. Some highways outside the urban areas, such as Interstate 35W south of Johnson County, already have a speed limit of 75, a few have an 80-mph limit and a turnpike between Austin and Seguin has a limit of 85 mph.
Protecting the environment and safety must be the two main considerations in setting these limits.
It appears that transportation and planning officials have satisfactorily addressed the environmental impact, and they have concluded that the higher limits, which represent more accurately the pace at which traffic actually flows, makes safer transitions in speeds from rural to urban areas.
With those factors in mind, there doesn’t seem to be any significant reason why the speed limits should not be raised.
Besides, regardless of the posted speed, it still will be the responsibility of individual motorists to drive safely.