When the 55 mile per hour national speed limit
was amended in 1987 and later repealed in 1995, states were once again free to establish speed limits based on safety standards, not just fuel economy. States in the overpopulated and traffic-choked Northeast set a fairly conservative limit of 65 mph on interstate highways, while less population-dense Western states gave drivers a bit more free reign.
Montana, for example, initially set their interstate speed limit at “reasonable and prudent.” This turned out to be a bad great idea, since the definition of “reasonable and prudent” varied greatly from driver to driver. Until it was changed back to 75 mph on interstate highways, Montana probably had more tourists driving Ferraris
than any other state in the nation.
Today, Utah and portions of Texas have the highest interstate speed limits, capped at 80 mph. That will soon change, since Texas just approved a new maximum speed limit of 85 miles per hour. It’s not all good news, however, since the new speed limit doesn’t go into effect right away and will only apply to certain (desolate) portions of interstate highway in the Lone Star State.
The first step before Texas becomes the new Montana is a review of interstate highways, to determine which ones can have speed limits raised from 70 to 75 mph. Only after this is finished will the state review highways for an increase from 80 to 85 mph, and chances are good that only stretches of Interstate 10 in West Texas will get the nod. The review, and the resulting changes, must be posted by 2013.