RALEIGH — Traffic engineers want to help make commuting easier, and they are considering High Occupancy Vehicle lanes as a way to end the gridlock.
If more people rode together, there would be fewer cars on the road. Sounds like a simple solution to traffic troubles, but a recentDepartment of Transportationsurvey found that during the morning rush in Wake and Durham counties, only one car in 10 carries more than one person.
HOV lanes offer drivers an incentive to travel together by allowing them to use a special lane.
HOV-3 lanes have worked well in the Washington, D.C. area. Cars with three people inside can ride in designated lanes, speeding up the commute for carpoolers.
Charlotte built one HOV lane last year; it covers three miles of Independence Boulevard. Planners decided to allow bus traffic only, though, which upset carpoolers.
N.C. Deputy Transportation Secretary David King is cautious about whether the lanes would work here.
"It may work in northern Virginia, but that doesn't necessarily mean it's going to work here," King says. "There is a large attitudinal component here. If the public is dead set against this, then it's not going to work."
Another challenge created by HOV lanes is space. On I-40, there is not much of it. Engineers say they do not want to remove any current lanes, so the only option is adding more. At theHarrison Avenueexit, though, the median is very narrow and there is not much room for an additional lane on either side of the interstate.
HOV lanes would also be expensive, costing an estimated $10 million per mile. Some say the taxpayers will reject the idea based on its price tag.
The DOT has just startedits HOV study, and traffic counters are watching the busiest routes: I-40, I-440, Highway 64 and US-1.
Early next year, driver surveys will be mailed out. If you do not want to wait for the survey, you can call the DOT at 800-DOT-4-U. Operators are on duty from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m.
If there is enough public support, and engineers decide HOV lanes are possible, the earliest construction date is at least five years away.