Speed limit on MoPac Express lanes could be going up

On Wednesday, the Central Texas Regional Mobility Authority board of directors will consider raising the speed limit in MoPac express lanes. 

This would affect the express lanes in the 11-mile stretch between Parmer Lane and Cesar Chavez Street. It will not have any impact on the general purpose lanes.

“It could be a little faster,” said Paul Perez, who uses the express lanes to commute to work each day. 

For people in Austin the MoPac Express Lanes are one way to shave a little time off a sometimes painful commute. 

“So, I work north, I live south, so it makes it convenient for me,” Perez said.  

However, drivers said it doesn't always move as quickly as it should. 

“Expressing the express lane might not be a bad idea,” said Jesse Cartagena who drives on MoPac regularly. 

The proposal suggests changing the speed limit from 65 to 70 in the express lanes, as well as creating a minimum speed limit of 55 for those same lanes. That would exclude construction zones, reduced speed zones or times of bad weather. 

“I think that you should be going a certain speed on the highway, obviously traffic can dictate that. Sometimes you have to go slower, obviously, but, yeah, absolutely,” Cartagena said.  

CTRMA said they have conducted a speed zone study to find suggested limits for the express lanes. It showed drivers who use them are often frustrated by slower moving vehicles preventing them from getting the full benefit of paying for a faster lane of travel. 

“If there's slower cars on it, they shouldn't be on that express lane. Just stay on the right side and don't get on the express lane,” said Perez.  

The proposal lists several potential benefits of increasing the speed limit and adding a minimum speed. This includes discouraging wide variations in travel speeds, which CTRMA said could reduce crashes, increasing the number of cars that can pass through the express lanes at one time, and meeting driver expectations for a faster commute. 

“Any way we can make the highways a little bit quicker, more efficient, would be better. Obviously a lot more people are moving to Austin, so, yeah, definitely,” Cartagena said.  

If the board approves the resolution, the new speed limits will go into effect as soon as signs are installed. According to the proposal, the cost of changing those speed limits would be about $80,000. That money will be used to buy and place the new signs as well as for traffic control and construction inspections.