Slow down on MoPac, or get a ticket


by HEATHER KOVAR / KVUE News and photojournalist SCOTT GUEST

Bio | Email | Follow: @HeatherK_KVUE

Posted on January 21, 2014 at 7:15 PM

Updated Wednesday, Jan 22 at 10:05 AM

AUSTIN -- Some drivers are learning the hard way that the speed limit on MoPac Expressway between U.S. Highway 183 and RM 2222 has dropped to 55 miles per hour.

The new speed limit, lowered from 65 miles per hour, is in effect all the time, not just when lanes are closed or construction workers are present.

Police have increased their presence and are pulling over speeding drivers. Some said the new limit is nearly impossible.

"That's outrageous. That's crazy,” said one driver.

Another said the police presence is causing delays.

“On my ride in to work, I’ve noticed the traffic has been backing up, and I noticed that there are cops on the side with people pulled over with their lights on,” said driver Barbara Downs.

Downs said she thinks the speed limit should be lower in construction zones for safety reasons.

Lt. Robert Richman with the Highway Enforcement Motors Division of the Austin Police Department said they want to solve the problem, not just write tickets.

He said police know pulling people over can sometimes cause a backup, so they’re looking for ways to better manage the traffic problem during construction.

On Tuesday, they sent up the APD air support unit to monitor traffic patterns and learn what they can do better. He said there have been a few more crashes since construction began.

“Nothing was really that obvious, other than people need to slow down going to work,” said Richman.

He said they plan to gradually expand the lowered speed limit south as construction progresses. Eventually all 11 miles of the MoPac Improvement Zone will be 55 miles per hour until completion in 2015.

“All it takes is to work for any period of time in close proximity to traffic traveling by at a high rate of speed,” said Joseph Schroeder with CH2M HILL, the construction company building the MoPac Improvement Project.

Schroeder is project manager of the MoPac construction.

“We're still in the phase of putting in place the temporary traffic control to give you good separation between the work zone and motorists," Schroeder said.

In the coming weeks, they'll begin expansion work in the median, where two new express toll lanes will be in operation by some point in 2015.

Lowering the speed limit in construction zones is a state mandate. Fines for speeding can double in construction zones when people are working.

For more information on the MoPac Improvement Project, go here.

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