Overhauled HOV lane policy approved




Posted on December 13, 2012 at 11:51 PM

DALLAS -- Thursday afternoon, westbound I-30 was backed up bumper to bumper behind a terrible accident scene. As cars either sat still or barely crawled, vehicles in the HOV lanes whizzed by without even a tap of the brakes.

"To all those folks that ride alone and shake their fist at us, because they can't get into those lanes, well, those days are going to be over," said Michael Morris of the North Central Texas Council of Governments.

The regional transportation commission (RTC) approved a plan Thursday that will allow solo drivers to pay a fee to enter what have been known as "carpool lanes." They've traditionally only been open to vehicles with two or more passengers.

It will likely be about a year before the system is implemented, but it also means all drivers who use the HOV system will need to purchase a toll tag.

The approved plan also slightly altered the upcoming opening of the LBJ Express. That system will have four free main lanes, but no free HOV lanes when it opens in December 2013. There will instead be three tolled express lanes.

Carpoolers will get discounts, but no one will drive on the express lanes for free. Morris said that's something all drivers need to get used to. He expects no more free HOV lanes to ever be built.

The LBJ Express was originally only going to offer discounts in those fast lanes to carpools of three or more people. But trying to merge that system with the current "two-plus" HOV lane system proved too difficult. So the RTC voted to give discounts to vehicles with two or more passengers for a few years. By 2016, and possibly before, only "three-plus" vehicles will qualify for the discount.

"We heard from people a slow approach to this change was going to be best," Morris said. "We are going to ease people into it instead of confuse them."

So far, there's no estimate on how much it will cost a solo driver to buy into a spot on the current HOV system.

E-mail twoodard@wfaa.com