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The Autobahn Comes to America

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On: Mon, Oct 21, 2013 at 4:35PM | By: Karen Cook

The Autobahn Comes to America

I lived in Germany for two years. We didn’t have a car. We really didn’t need one. We lived in a small farm town with everything necessary within walking distance. We did have friends with cars, however, and we went castle-hopping on the weekends or into Frankfurt to shop at the big department stores that seemed to believe that all Americans wore cowboy boots and huge belt buckles. At least that’s what all the “American” manikins wore. To get to Frankfurt we had to take the Autobahn. To people who haven’t been there, an Autobahn is an interstate with no speed limit. This isn’t entirely true. There are stretches that have posted speed limits and fines for exceeding them. For the most part though, the recommended speed is 81 mph. There are actually fewer accidents compared to American interstates but the fatality rate is higher. It’s a trade off I guess.

About a year ago Texas opened its own Autobahn (the SH130). It is a 41-mile stretch of brand new asphalt that runs from Georgetown to Seguin which will get you around the crowded I-35 through Austin. It will add about 12 miles to your trip and it will save you time, but not money. The SH130 is a toll road and costs about $8 to travel its length. There are no toll booths to pay as you go. The bill comes in the mail based on the address the DMV has for you which it gets from your tag. The speed limit here is 85 mph, which is the highest in the United States and, in fact, the entire Western Hemisphere. By the bye, this is the second-highest posted speed limit in the world, topped only by Poland which has some roads with a limit of 86 mph. This kind of speed increase is not likely to be seen elsewhere in the near future because older roads are not suited to higher speeds. In order for this trend to spread new roads would have to be built across the country.

It remains to be seen whether the higher speeds will cause more fatal accidents, but experts believe that if there is less traffic on a road and the drivers are all traveling at about the same speed, regardless of what that is, there will be fewer crashes. At this point, the highway is attracting drivers who want to go fast and can afford the tolls. Drivers who are wary of speed or don’t want to pay for the privilege are sticking to I-35.


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