SH 130

Four decades ago, Austin, Texas, had a population of 250,000 and a reputation as a laid-back oasis of liberal politics and live music. Today, the Austin metro area is home to 1.8 million people and has some of the nation's worst traffic congestion.

For years, the city has done little to address the growing problem. But most in the Texas capital now agree something has to change if Austin is to save what's left of its quirky character.

www.flickr.com/jczart

The 85 mile-per-hour toll road that connects Austin with San Antonio is getting less traffic than planners hoped for.

In turn, Moody’s Investor Service lowered the credit rating of Cintra, the company that operates SH 130 toll road, by four grades. Moody’s says unless traffic increases significantly, the credit rating will continue to fall.

Filipa Rodrigues/KUT News

It’s no secret Interstate 35 congestion takes a toll on Austinites.

Out of a list of Texas’ 100 most congested roadways, the portion of I-35 running through central Austin is the fourth most congested in the state. Meanwhile, State Highway 130, out east of I-35, is open for business.

courtesy SH 130 Concession Co.

If you drive on I-35, state transportation officials hope you’ll see fewer big trucks next month than you do today.

The state Transportation Commission approved a substantial toll reduction for 18-wheelers that circumnavigate the city on the Texas 130 and Texas 45 toll roads. Instead of paying $33 to bypass Austin, trucks will pay $11 or less.

courtesy SH 130 Concession Co.

It's been almost three weeks since the new stretch of State Highway 130 opened on Oct. 24. Now the temporary freeway is officially a tollway. And that's how it's going to stay, for the next 50 years or so.

The new segments of SH-130, which run just south of the Austin-Bergstrom International Airport to Seguin, were free to motorists until Nov. 11. Now the the toll rate has been set at $0.15 per mile for passenger vehicles with TxTag service. Vehicles without a TxTag can also use the tollway, and will be billed through a pay-by-mail service.

"With this new road, motorists can travel 90 miles of toll road and bypass I-35 congestion between Seguin and Georgetown for about $12," the Texas Department of Transportation says in a press release.

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Update: Oct. 31, 5:36 a.m.: The Central Texas toll road with the nation's highest speed limit will get signs warning drivers about wildlife. The move comes after at least three incidents of vehicles hitting animals in the first few days of the new 85 mph zone.

According to the San Antonio Express-News, the private company that runs the 41-mile portion of State Highway 130 says temporary electronic message boards will be used until permanent signs can be installed.

Original Story: Oct. 26, 1:57 p.m.: A new section of State Highway 130 opened Wednesday. It runs from Mustang Ridge to Seguin and allows drivers to go 85 mph. But the same night the highway opened, there were a handful of crashes involving local wildlife.

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Crashes on New Stretch of SH130

The new, high-speed section of State Highway 130 opened last Wednesday. That first night, wildlife caused a handful of accidents.

SH 130 Concession Company

The fastest road in the country is now open to drivers in Central Texas. The 85 mile per hour portion of State Highway 130 opened this morning.

The toll road stretches across about 41 miles from Mustang Ridge to Seguin. It will soon cost drivers 15 cents per mile—or $6.17 to drive the length of the road—but it’s free through Nov. 10th.

Eighteen-wheelers will be charged 60 cents per mile. But, as reported last month, truckers may avoid the toll road altogether because driving over 65 mph reduces fuel efficiency and also raises safety concerns.

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Three Austinites are suing the City of Austin, Travis County, the Austin Independent School District and Central Health for allowing tax breaks on what the plaintiffs refer to as “allegedly” historic properties.

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Max Ually via Texas Tribune

In a matter of weeks, a 41-mile stretch of toll road with the fastest speed limit in the country will open in Central Texas.

But truck drivers may steer clear of the new high-speed road, said John Esparza, president of the Texas Motor Transportation Association, which represents the trucking industry in Texas.

“It’s going to be a deterrent, yes,” Esparza said of the road’s 85 mph speed limit.

The Texas Department of Transportation has said it pursued a higher speed limit for the new portion of State Highway 130 from Austin to Seguin in part to entice drivers away from more congested highways. Agency officials have said engineering tests demonstrated that an 85-mph speed limit is safe for the new toll road.

While he acknowledged that some truck drivers drive faster than 65 mph, most trucking companies try to keep drivers from traveling faster than that speed, both out of concerns for safety and because it reduces a truck's gas mileage, Esparza said.