Austin
8:52 am
Fri January 27, 2012

Top Morning Stories 1/27/2012: Texans Can Drive 75 MPH

New Highway Speed Limits Coming

The Texas Transportation Commission approved increasing the speed limit to 75 miles per hour on 1,500 miles of interstate.

Last year's  passage of House Bill 1353 allows the Texas Department of Transportation (TxDOT) to increase speed limits to 75 mph, given that speed studies can show it can be done safely. The new speed limits span 60 Texas counties and raise the number of miles zoned 75 mph to almost 3,600 miles.  Before the bill, only counties below a certain population could have zones of 75 mph.

"These new speed limits increase highway efficiency while maintaining the safety of the transportation system," said TxDOT Traffic Operations Division Director Carol Rawson.

The new speed limits won’t be official until new signs are posted.

A list of the approved 75 mph zones can be found here. 

Redistricting Conference in San Antonio Attempts to Settle Map Duel

The parties involved in Texas' ongoing redistricting battle meet today in San Antonio.  Representatives from the state, defending the map the Texas Legislature drew in 2011, are meeting with a panel of San Antonio judges. Those judges attempted to redraw the map, but were told by the Supreme Court to try again, hewing closer to the Legislature's version. 

In a conversation with Ross Ramsey of the Texas Tribune, KUT's Matt Largey asked what's at stake in this conference, and why we should care.  

"Does Lloyd Doggett have a district or does he have to survive in a Republican district?" said Ramsey, illustrating one of the main issues with redistricting – who will represent whom.  

There's also the matter of reconciling map versions to avoid 2012 election delays.

"There are basically two sets of maps," says Ramsey.  "The maps that were approved by the Legislature would elect a certain number of people to the House Congress and the Senate who are Republicans. The maps drawn later by the courts who also elect Republican majorities but slightly smaller ones."

April 3 is still the target date for elections.

Bag Ban Latest: Ban to Start March 2014?

Yesterday, Austin’s bag ban entered a new (and possibly final) phase.

The city has released a third draft that moves the single-use paper and plastic bag ban to March 2014. According to the Austin American-Statesman:

The draft calls for enacting a ban on single-use paper and plastic bags at all retailers starting in March 2014.

From March 2013 until the ban would take effect, retailers could still offer such bags but would have to charge customers a per-bag fee of 10 cents or a per-transaction fee of $1, whichever the retailer prefers. And, starting in March 2013 , retailers would have to display signs advising customers of the benefits of reusing and recycling the bags.

The city will hold a public meeting Monday to gather input about the draft ban, and the city commission that reviews trash and recycling matters will consider it Feb. 8.

The City Council is slated to vote on the measure March 1.