By Kathi Bliss
Although the state’s transportation giant will not commit to a position, they did announce on Thursday that they have begun the process of considering a permanent speed limit for US Highway 183. The statement was among the first official comments from th the Texas Department of Transportation regarding US Highway and SH-130, and though they finally said something, the traffic agency did not shed much light on their policies, procedures or positions.
TxDOT has fallen under heavy fire over the last several months, based on a controversial decision to lower the speed limit on US Highway 183 to 50 – 55 miles per hour through Caldwell County – specifically over the sections of the road that are now under the maintenance agreement with the SH-130 Concession Company and being referred to as the “service road” for the SH-130 toll road.
Local commuters were outraged last year when they discovered that, although the toll way has one of the fastest speed limits in the nation, the limit on the free, taxpayer-funded US Highway 183 had been reduced from 65 miles per hour to 50 – 55 miles per hour, and that the reduction was expected to be permanent.
Originally, TxDOT had indicated that the lower limit would be only for the duration of the construction of SH-130.
In a written statement released Thursday, TxDOT representatives said that it is “usual practice to provide time for drivers to become accustomed to a new roadway configuration before a permanent speed limit is set.”
That period of time, TxDOT said, is ongoing.
“The use of sound engineering principles enables the department to provide a balanced transportation system that gets motorists to their destination as safely and as quickly as possible,” said Phil Wilson, TxDOT executive director.
While TxDOT confirmed it was “gathering data to set permanent speed limits,” no indication was given that the traffic authority has an intention of increasing the speed limit to its pre-construction rate.
Wilson offered gave no promise that traffic signals would be removed from the stretch of US Highway 183 – another thorn in the side of local commuters, who remember all too well the promise from TxDOT and SH130 Concession that traffic would “not be impeded” on Highway 183 in response to early questions about the possible installation of traffic signals.
Thursday’s release, however, suggested that the traffic signals are here to stay.
“Just as TxDOT is providing for safe passage along US 183, it is also monitoring traffic patterns as drivers get used to the new signals,” the release said.
In short, before the tollway was built, commuters were promised that their commute would not be affected by the tollway. Now, however, as more and more promises are broken, commuters become more and more convinced that the intent is to “force” traffic off the taxpayer-funded road and on to the toll-way.