A 41-mile stretch of toll road linking Austin and San Antonio, Texas has just been approved for an 85 mph speed-limit by the Texas Transportation Commission.
The road is not yet open to the public, and the tolls have yet to be set, but surely they will be higher than most similar American toll roads. This is thanks in part to a deal between the Spanish tollway company in charge of the highway and the Texas Department of Transportation (TxDOT). The deal assured the TxDOT that it would receive a $25 million up-front payment, and an additional 100$ million payment depending on the speed limit of the road. The TxDOT could have also taken shared profits from the toll-road over its entire lifespan, but instead they took the $100 million up front.
To set the limit of the road, a TxDOT employee and engineer drove the road at a comfortable speed, without looking at the speedometer. His speeds were then measured, and the speed limits were based on that test, which is a very different process than what normally goes into deciding the speed limits on public roads.
Another interesting development is the 55 mph speed limit that has been newly implemented on US 183, the main road used to circumvent the toll road. It seems as though the State is trying to funnel people onto the toll road by raising its speed limit, and lowering the limit of neighboring roads.
So while this toll road may now be more convenient, like with many things in life, it appears that money was the main factor behind this speed limit decision.